We are so busy managing our lives that we cover over the great mystery we’re involved in.”John O’Donohue
I have a conflicted relationship with the mysterious. I’m irresistibly drawn to that which is mysterious and unknowable. But it also frustrates me immensely when I can’t understand and wrap my head around something that matters to me.
My undergraduate studies in Computer Science and career in software development only strengthened my dependence on understanding the world by using my head. Things were rational. Not always easy, but logical. Algorithms controlled execution. When there was a problem, it might not be easy to find and understand, but it was always possible by collecting enough data and carefully tracing through the steps that were being executed.
Although I had a good life, I was increasingly searching for something more. I saw glimpses of that “great mystery” surrounding me and I explored different spiritual paths to see if I could find an answer to my longing. To my surprise, I ended up back where I had started as a child – with Christianity and the Catholic Church. But this time around I wanted to really understand, as an adult, what it meant to say that I was a Catholic. I pursued a theology degree and learned a lot about the Bible, about the history of the church, about different religious orders, about the work of different theologians. And more importantly I learned more about what it means to have a lived faith. And then I realized that I couldn’t know God through just an academic approach.
God is essentially a mystery, one we will never truly understand in this life. I can continue to collect “data” – pursue more academic study, develop my prayer life, and go on retreats, but I will never be able to reduce God to something that I can understand. This is both terrifying and immensely comforting at the same time. Its comforting because this means God is so much bigger than me! God has mercy and love that I really can’t comprehend. But its also terrifying because I have to take a lot on faith. I will never know for certain if the decisions I make in pursuit of a meaningful and good life are really the right decisions.
I’m realizing that this is what faith is all about. And I’m trying to get comfortable with the fact that although I can learn a lot about God, it will never be enough to satisfy the longing I have to understand the mystery. All I can do is try to live the best life that I can, pay attention to where God is leading me, and trust that I’m on the right path.