There’s a difference between the mysterious and the unknown. For something to be mysterious you‘ve got to have a sense of its presence. Something without that sense is just unknown.
When I was in college, I started reading the stories of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. They are the best examples of mysteries that I can come up with. The common theme with these stories, and any other mystery, is that the stories are driven by clues. There are clues hidden along the plot line that spark movement — whether to another thought or another clue. These clues are connected to something else. They are connected to the answer, and they have value because of that connection.
Let me give you an example. You wouldn’t pick up a cigarette butt you found on the ground, right? But you would if you were searching for answers and you thought it was a clue — that there might be DNA evidence on it. You wouldn’t give a second thought to a thing that wasn’t intrinsically valuable or connected to something else that was. Mystery drives us to discover truth — to solve the mystery.
God is at times mysterious, but His desire is to be known. He uses mystery to encourage the hunt.
“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” Proverbs 25:2.
I believe that God is always speaking to those who are listening. It’s in His nature to “feed the hungry.” I once heard Bill Johnson say that God conceals matters for us, not from us. I think Bill is right. There is a depth to the knowledge that comes through revelation. What kind of parent, when hiding Easter eggs, makes them impossible for their children to find? No one! What parents do is to determine the difficulty of the search based on the maturity of the child. I wonder if that’s how God uses mystery in our lives? He knows us and He wants us to know Him. So as we mature and seek out His mysteries, He reveals them to us relative to our ability to understand. It’s like what Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.”
In Ephesians 3, Paul writes:
“2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”
When we come upon revelation, we share it with one another. We do this, like Paul says, in order for others to “understand insight into they mystery of Christ.”
There’s a word that has captivated me for over a decade. The word is “alluvium.” I can’t shake the picture it creates in my mind. Here’s the definition:
alluvium: “a deposit of clay, silt, sand, and gravel left by flowing streams in a river valley or delta, typically producing fertile soil.”
As these deposits are left behind, they build on one another, cementing themselves into what’s called an “alluvial deposit.” These structures (sometimes massive) are built by small deposits attaching themselves to other small deposits over time. This is how I think of revelation. Throughout our lifetime, as we search out the mysteries of God, He reveals more of Himself — acting as alluvial deposits along the stream of our life. Each deposit creating a more complete picture of who He is.
The truth is that all mysteries will be made known — and all by revelation through the Spirit, either in our lifetime or the life to come.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
My hope for us Christians is that our lives would be marked by revelation. That as we search out the mysteries of God, He strengthens the reflection in the mirror.