When you fear the Mystery


The line jolts me as it speaks of “the unfettered character of Yahweh, who will not be captured, contained, assigned or managed by anyone or anything, for any purpose.” (Brueggemann, “Theology of the Old Testament,” p. 184)

I return to “the initial encounter of the burning bush in which YHWH gave (and did not give!) the divine name.” (Brueggemann, “An Unsettling God,” p. 6) “Who ARE you?” “I am who I am.” “I will be what I will be.” Unfathomable, uncontrollable mystery.

And in the face of such mystery, I panic. How can I pray “Jesus, may all that is you flow into me. . .”? Surely I will be utterly destroyed if Jesus, himself the unfathomable I am, fills me.

But as I pray and wait, He reminds me. This is what you were made for. From the beginning we were created to hold the very life of God. Clay tenderly shaped. Animated with the life-breath of God. Fully, uniquely ourselves, yes. Individuals distinct from Him. But only truly alive, most fully and beautifully ourselves when filled with Him.

“The tender flesh itself

Will be found one day

-quite surprisingly-

to be capable of receiving,

and yes, full

capable of embracing

the searing energies of God.

Go figure. Fear not.

For even at its beginning

The humble clay received

God’s art. . .” (Saint Irenaeus (c. 125-c. 210), adapted by Scott Cairns)

Alongside the unfathomable mystery, the freedom that refuses to be controlled, stands a still deeper mystery. For this God, who will not be captured or managed, allows himself to be contained, first in a single body, now in many forming one. The mystery remains, even deepens, but in a new form. For the I am who I am has taken on a particular name: Jesus. Again the Incomprehensible lays Himself down in love, binding Himself to our clay.

And into my fear echo again these words of deepest mystery:

“One thing you can count on is the way I’ll love you.”