Silence has many benefits. Because silence involves surrendering our need for words to control ourselves and others, it opens us to welcome mystery, to embrace the ability to say “I don’t know” without embarrassment.
Kitchen Table Wisdom, a wonderfully insightful book by Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, says “An answer is an invitation to stop thinking about something, to stop wondering.” Yet most of us are more desirous of answers than we are of mystery. We are heirs of the age of reason, where knowledge was elevated over mystery, and skepticism was a prized trait.
We see it within the Church when people attempt to turn the creation story into a science lesson, instead of reading it as the story of God’s generous love for us. We seek to prove it literally instead of embracing the truth of what it says for us—that God created us to be in relationship with God. Our desire for proof causes us to miss the wonder of the story.
I recently had the delight of attending a Jars of Clay concert. As they shared about their most recent album, they commented that it reflected their own growing willingness to live with mystery. The ability to be content with mystery is a sign of spiritual growth. To be comfortable with uncertainty requires faith. When believers have all the answers, they are no longer believers, but knowers. And if you know something, you don’t need faith.
If we lose the ability to wonder, we cannot experience awe. If we are certain, growth stops. And if growth stops, then death is not far behind. When there is nothing left to learn, there is nothing left. Life is gone. The boundaries are set, and one is imprisoned by certainty.
Maybe the church, and we who are part of the church, should focus less on providing answers and instead should invite wondering. Embracing mystery frees us to grow, to wonder and to be in love with the one who loves us and who craves our relationship.