Life…Love… “and” Mystery



Periodically I call upon a chiropractor for treatment of a disc problem in my low back.  One part of my visit includes a thirty-minute massage by a wonderful Russian immigrant woman.  Deana is perhaps in her mid-fifties.  She and her husband came to America from Russia in the late-eighties.  They’ve worked hard and long hours to raise their family and to make a comfortable living in this country.  Someday I hope to learn the story of Deana’s life in Russia and what brought her to America.  One thing I know is that Deana is a devout Christian woman with a passionate love for God…a love that undoubtedly gave her hope and strength during the transition she faced when she left behind all that was familiar to come to this foreign land.


On my recent visit Deana returned to one of her favorite subjects.  She began, “Deebee (her pronunciation of my name), you love God?  Yes, you love God.”  Then she pauses and speaks for herself, “I LOVE God!  God [is] LOVE! I LOVE Jesus!” with a passionate emphasis on the word love. 


As I receive the gift of her skillfully trained hands relieving the tension and soreness in my body the conversation continues, “Deebee, tell me what you think God…I want learn more [about] God.  I LOVE God.”  As I listen I am struck by the childlike quality of her love and trust.  What is it Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Luke 18:17).  I think to myself, what images, symbols or metaphors can I share that will nurture her soul, invite her to grow and still be something to which she can relate.  “Yes Deana”, I say, “I believe that God is love.”  I continue, “And God is life”. The word “and” becomes a stumbling block.  “And?…And?…what this ‘and’?” she asks.  Conjunctions are apparently not a part of her new vocabulary! Deana’s mastery of the English language is limited, and my knowledge of Russian is non-existent, so our conversations often take funny twists and turns as we try to decipher what the other is attempting to communicate.  We laugh as I make several attempts to explain the word “and”, only to have her give me a blank look or respond with the phrase, “I no know ‘and’”.  I decide to move on to the real challenge, “AND (we laugh) God is mystery”.  Myster…Mystery? she inquires.  By now I realize that I’m getting in over my head.  How can I find words to define mystery, especially as it relates to my understanding of God, in a way that Deana can comprehend?  But she is insistent, “Deebee, you write word ‘mystery’ [on] paper.  I look my dictionary…Deebee, I want learn God.  You write [about] God for me.  I give you paper.”


At this point our time comes to a close and I am to move on to see the chiropractor.  I take the paper, jot down a few notes for Deana and wonder how she will be able to understand them.  Then I reflect on the images I have shared with her.  Love, life and mystery…these are the images of God that have power in my life right now.  John O’Donohue, author of Eternal Echoes: Exploring our Yearning to Belong writes of symbols, “A symbol is alive; it constantly nudges thought toward new windows of seeing.” (Italics added for emphasis)


As I wait for the chiropractor I reflect on how my images and symbols of God have changed over the years; how those changes often came to me through my own life’s transitions; and how they opened up new windows of seeing God’s presence and action in my life. The Bible is rich with images rooted in experiences of the people of God.  Moses meets God in the burning bush, Elijah hears God in a still small voice, and God visits Mary in the form of the angel Gabriel.  The Psalms are filled with images for God and God’s relationship to God’s people.  The author of the Gospel of John, referring to Jesus, gives us the profound “I AM” statements…“I AM the light of the world; I AM the bread of Life; I AM the resurrection and the life”.  The church offers us stirring images when pastors, using symbolic representations, refer to the Trinity as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.


All of these are powerful images on which to meditate during times of prayer.  Can you name any particular image of God that has special meaning for you?  You may wish to search the scriptures or your memory-banks for an important image from the past.  During a time of prayer simply sit quietly with your eyes closed and focus on your image.  Allow yourself to soak in whatever image captures your imagination and permit it to be your teacher.  Let it challenge you, instruct you or bring you comfort.  Listen with the “ears of your heart”.  It may require several sittings, but eventually one image or another will “speak to you” and will hopefully transform your awareness of God.  Each image, like one piece of a magnificent puzzle, expands and deepens our picture of God. Yet, as powerful as some images may be, none comes close to capturing the totality of the Sacred.  And this is where the mystery enters.  With each new experience or understanding of God comes the realization that there is much more to be learned.


In a few weeks we will celebrate Christmas, a pivotal point of transition in our history as a people of God.  Jesus, Emmanuel, “God with us”…how better can we describe that event than one of life, love AND mystery.  Through Jesus, we are introduced to compelling new images of God; images of vulnerability, compassion and unconditional love.  Yes Deana, God is life…AND God is love…AND God is mystery…AND God is so much more.  May God bless you Deana, and each of us this Advent as we open our hearts and minds to the God who comes to us anew in the richness of the images of this holy season.


May you seek and be sought by Mystery,

Debbie Kohler