February 18, 2005


The day began overcast, and although it's sunny now, the forecast calls for another rainy day in the Sacramento Valley. The rain is better than the fog, though. Tonight, family will be making the long drive up I-5 from southern California for a visit, and at least they'll be able to see the road in front of them.

Today I'm at the local high school, filling in as a substitute for the math teacher. Most of her classes are taking tests today, so my job is pretty simple: just distribute the tests and monitor the students as they work. (Side note: this morning's student bulletin mentioned next week's hay-bucking contest; now that's something I didn't get to experience growing up in Burbank!)

In one of the classes, the students are actually taking a "retest." Apparently, they took a test a few days ago, and had a difficult time coming up with the right answers; so the teacher decided to give them a second chance. To do well in math, right answers are a must. For each question on the test, there is one right answer, and every student is hoping that their work will produce that answer, resulting in a good grade.

The search for answers continues throughout one's life. Answers are good. Answers will not only help you get an A in school; answers are what your boss expects, answers will keep the IRS off your back, and answers will help you keep your computer virus-free. Scientists searching for answers are responsible for launching rockets and preventing disease.

But answers can only take you so far.

When I was little, every year my family would take a trip to Disneyland. I remember the first time I felt brave enough to go on the Haunted Mansion ride. I was a little nervous, but old enough to know that everything I would see was not real, that it was created by special effects, and so I was willing to give it a try.

Once inside, I wasn't scared, but what I saw amazed me. Objects floated in midair. Statues changed shape. Rooms actually stretched. Ghosts seemed so real.

I wanted to know how the designers of the ride created all those special effects. I wanted answers. On subsequent visits, I figured out some of those answers --- and felt very proud of myself. Yet, with every answer I discovered, the ride lost some of its magic.

The real world is not like that. In the real world, the world God created and designed, the questions are endless. In fact, for every answer that is found, at least two more questions present themselves. Much of God's world, as the theologians say, is a mystery, and the more one explores it, the more mysterious it becomes.

This is, I suppose, incredibly frustrating for some people. Some people want answers for everything, including how the world works, how God works, and why certain things happen in life. They try to boil everything down to a few simple rules, a handful of "fundamentals." Scripture becomes nothing but an instruction manual with some text book histories thrown in.

Some people are like that. Sometimes I'm one of them.

For others, the world is full of mystery and wonder. They read scripture, and see that it gives space to questions as well as answers. There are many dozens of images of God, each one helpful, each one incomplete. Scripture presents four different accounts of the life of Jesus, four different interpretations of who he was. Why? Because there is no one right answer.

There is a beauty to the mystery of God's world. Growing up, I read nearly every one of the Hardy Boys books. If a friend read one that I hadn't yet read, I wouldn't let him tell me about it, because I didn't want to know how it ended. There'd be no fun reading it if the mystery was already solved, all the questions answered.

I do not expect all my questions about the world or about God to ever be answered, and that's OK. In fact, it's even better than OK. It is in wrestling with the questions, the doubts, the mystery, that I grow. The answers can only take me so far. To go all the way, I need to live in the questions, the mystery, of this wonderful life.


the reverend mommy said...

Sometimes I think the real beauty in life is found in the struggle trying to understand and grasp and comprehend the Great Mysteries.

Michael said...

I loved the Hardy boys too. I couldn't get either of my boys interested. They don't see the magic.

Take Care

the reverend mommy said...

OK, Danny, it's been 5 days without a blog entry. We're waiting.
But patiently.

How are you dealing the the woman at the well?