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Walking the Shore Between Knowledge and Mystery

Several things have happened over the last few weeks to remind me of the mystery of our lives, and how there is so little we know.  The first was the death of my friend’s mother.  After ten years of illness, she finally took her last  breath when all other family members had left and only my friend was there to say goodbye.  It had not been an easy relationship, and my friend did the best she could over the years, taking care of her ailing mother.  It seemed as if her mother’s last breath came at 12:21 but then very shortly after, another two shallow breaths were heard.  The time was 12:22, the month and day of my friend’s birthday.  It was as if her mother was blessing my friend’s life with an acknowledgment of how much her birth had meant to her mother.  We will never know why it took her 10 years of illness and 11 long days of hospice to let go, but she did at a moment that would bring healing to my friend.

Within the same week, I got an email about the Hubble telescope, describing how scientists aimed the camera at a blank spot in space where no stars could be seen for 10 days.  Some people thought it was a waste of money to use this very expensive telescope to view a place where it seemed there was no activity.  When the scientists put the 10 days worth of images together into a 3-D model, they discovered that there were over 300 galaxies in this tiny little space of our universe.

When we are children, we ask lots of questions so we can begin to construct our world and make sense out of it.  We learn the difference between green and blue, water and earth, hot and cold, and nice and mean.    Yet as we get older, the questions become harder, and we understand less.  Our pastor at church equated it to an island in the middle of the sea of mystery.  Our little island of knowledge grows a little each year, as we gain concrete knowledge about how things work. However, as our world becomes more gray and less black and white, the sea shore of the island also grows.  It is on the seashore that our questions lie, between knowing and the mystery that we cannot comprehend.  It is really true that the more we know, the more we realize we don’t know.

I sent my friend a clear bottle with a cork in the top after her mother died.  I included a note that said “Don’t ever, ever open it, so you will learn to love the mystery of life.”  I kept a bottle for myself.   I imagine that the bottle is filled with possibility, that even if I don’t understand it, the world is working in its right order, that all is well, and I can trust our ever present Divine God to look over us and love us in the midst of pain and confusion.  Instead of making me anxious with more questions, I am able to look at the bottle and know that goodness beyond my understanding is working in the world.  There is a rhyme and a reason beyond my human comprehension, and knowing that an ever loving God is with us through all of our trials and tribulations, that a Divine touch can be seen in 300 galaxies in a dark corner of the universe,  is enough for me.

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