In case you were singing along with The Twelve Days of Christmas, today is six geese-a-laying. And, according to some, this was subtle reference to the six days of creation in Scripture. Can anyone verify these supposed parallels?
I'm tracking the twelve days of Christmas by focusing on a different aspect of God's character each day.
I want to start with ambivalence before I get to the aspect of God in focus. According to the dictionary in my computer, it is the state of "having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about someone or something."
In the particular Protestant denomination where I grew up, this was not a word used much in conversation about God. We preferred certitudes and comfort over mystery.
This eventually wore thin for me. The more I read and studied, the more mystery I came in contact with. The more questions I had. The questions meant that I was coming in contact with One who was bigger and more beautiful (frightening, powerful, abundant) than I ever imagined. This fit with the stories I read in Scripture. The thin soup a lot of talk in the church eventually caused me to doubt in a god that didn’t exist! I was led in Scripture and with the help of others to find that there was so much more, even as our confession in Christ Jesus was rock solid.
I found a few writers and friends along the way who encouraged me. Not the least of was Mr. Beaver in Narnia talking to Lucy, "Who said anything about Aslan being safe? Of course he is not safe, but he is good."
That causes the sort of ambivalence that for most of us at some point is discomforting. To be sure, God will not be once and for all contained in our boxes and taken out as we see fit! In all of God’s majestic and infinite wisdom, God defines us and includes us in His story by His grace!
We must reckon with the reality of God which most certainly includes mystery. We do so by grace through faith. Therefore, on the sixth day of Christmas, God is a mystery. According to Frederich Buechner, "To say that God is a mystery is to say that you can never nail him down. Even on Christ the nails proved ultimately ineffective."
Instead of being destroyed by the mystery or threatened by the mystery which shrouds God, we are saved by grace. To speak of God's mystery highlights all that is unknowable about God -- that we are not God. Our understanding and appreciation for WHO God is and WHAT God has done is limited. Therefore, to speak of anything about God requires humility in light of these limitations.
At any given time and glimpse we get from Scripture, we may be attracted to know more and frightened to the core to proceed any further. This, as German theologian Rudolf Otto once said, is the mysterium tremendum. It is the reality before we stand in awe; it is the reality before which we tremble.
The systematic work of Paul in chapters 1 through 11 of Romans is one of my favorite sections in all of Scripture. Throughout, Paul’s talk is assured, firm, and humble. The underlying humility emerges in Romans 11:33-36. The doxology begins with the word, “Oh.”
It’s as if Paul surveys all that God has revealed to him and quickly realizes that he has only begun to scratch the surface of truth that is God....
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord,
who has been his counselor?
Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36, ESV)