“M” is for mystery and for mystic

“The more I listened, the more I recognized within myself a deep hunger to be more aware of the Mystery all around me.”

I don’t know why it is that when I attempt to meditate, my mind resorts to Dr. Seuss. It has been more than 30 years since I was first read Dr. Seuss’s ABCs to our son, but it is still stuck deep in the crevasses of my neural folds.

Big “A” little “a”, what begins with “A”? Aunt Annie’s alligator “A”, “A”, “A.”

Big “B” little “b” what begins with “B”?  Barber, baby, bubbles, and a bumble bee.

Honest. I didn’t even need to look it up. (And now I have a grand-daughter.  Lord help me!)

So, when my mind was wondering as it is so prone to do, it landed on “M” and I immediately thought of two words: mystery and mystic.

I sometimes think meditation mind wandering is a little like the stuff of dreams: a mix of images from long ago and this week!

A friend gave me a CD for Christmas:  The Will to Live and Other Mysteries by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen

In her wonderful wisdom and gentle, steady voice, Dr. Remen speaks of Mystery with a capital “M”.  As she says,

”We will all encounter more Mystery in our lives than we will see.”

The more I listened, the more I recognized within myself a deep hunger to be more aware of the Mystery all around me.

I am beginning to believe that only these encounters with Mystery can sustain me on this journey with pain. One of the biggest losses for me has been the way that pain narrows my vision.  Recently, I have completely missed the birthdays of four good friends (so sorry Mary and Sherry, Carol, and Katharine). On some days, the only thing that breaks through are the smiles of my grand-daughter Georgia, the generous kindness of my husband, and the steady small inquiries of friends who ask, “How is it today?”

Yet there is something about meeting Mystery that allows me to feel the largeness of life once more.

One of the things I loved the most about hospital chaplaincy was the nearness of Mystery.

God is near to the broken-hearted.

God is very present in times of trouble.

I also come near to the Mystery when I wander gardens and waterways with my camera.

In spiritual direction, very often, Mystery comes near.

Also as I read Scripture, especially the stories of women like Anna , an amazing woman of intuition, faithfulness, and voice.  She is a model for those of us, especially women, who happen to be mystics.

Which leads me to the second “m” word I encountered this week: mystic.   A friend mentioned in casual conversation that another friend had referenced me as a mystic. Though I have internally referenced myself in that way, I’ve seldom done so publicly.  I think it tends to conjure up (pun intended) spooky notions that don’t feel like they fit at all.

Reminded once again this week of how deep my hunger for Mystery runs, the label of mystic seems to fit.

One particular aspect of Dr. Remen’s talk was particularly intriguing to me.  It was a spiritual practice (my words, not hers) that was designed to help develop eyes to see more of the Mystery in which we all live.

Her recommendation: journal at the end of the day and answer 3 simple questions in 15 minutes or less:

What surprised you?

What touched or moved you?

What inspired you?

Apparently, these questions were constructed through the work of a sociologist or maybe an anthropologist… someone who might study such things…

For me, today, these were my recollections:

  • Surprised by the simple pleasure of a hot shower.
  • Touched by the fear of a friend who is entering counseling for the first time.
  •  Inspired by the generosity of another friend who offered to take off work and pay for my first visit to a new pain specialist who has helped her.

 The practice made me think of the eight (yes 8) blank (yes blank) journals of various shapes and sizes, all given to me over the last year.  Cleaning up recently, I gathered them from the various corners of my bedroom and office and put them at my bedside.  I was curious about both their number and blankness.  Interestingly those observations feel more like an invitation now.

I’m starting with the one on top tonight.

Maybe you’d like to join me and post some of your discoveries here.

  • http://www.gailshowalter.com Gail Showalter

    I have been surprised, touched, and inspired by a Divine Storm that has recently affected the lives of my grown children and, of course, me. It has been approaching for years. There have been numerous strikes of lightning and threatening thunder. Now it has hit. Due to the intensely personal nature of the circumstances I can’t share the specifics. I can just say, God does work in Mystery. Events that hurt also trigger growth. They may cut at the core and case great pain and yet new live comes from them. I am filled with gratitude for Mystery and the Messenger in the Chaos.
    Thank you, Janet.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/janetdavis/ Janet Davis

      I think Mystery is another name for the “peace that passes understanding!”

  • http://annajouj.wordpress.com Anna

    How lovely of a thought! Considering the fact that I usually am pretty attuned to name-significance, I was pleasantly surprised by the newness of your musing on Anna as a mystic. That inspires me greatly, with how much I have always longed to be more of a mystic in my own faith. Food for thought, and musings more to come for me :-)
    Thanks, Janet!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/janetdavis/ Janet Davis

      What a wonderful calling to “live into”… being LOVE in the world… radiating the Spirit. So often the stories of women in Scripture can free us to be the women we are! Thanks for adding your voice to the conversation, Anna!

  • Gwen

    Thank you for your writing, Janet. I find the great Mystery of life to be very entertaining in some funny way. As I am one who use to wonder what to do with my “free time”, I am now seeing the gift of contemplation and dwelling with Mystery. Now I worry that I don’t have enough free time to dwell in the Mystery. I find I miss that dwelling time if it is not available to me. I chuckle to think that while we dwell here on God’s earth, we have been given the gift of dwelling in Mystery. I believe that when we are face to face with Christ, we will discover all fullness of God and will no longer be in Mystery. So, I believe that Mystery is a gift from God for His people on earth. My prayer is that I will take the time and be still and dwell in the mystery. Why? Because I enjoy it. There is something freeing in not having all of the answers.
    Thanks, Janet!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/janetdavis/ Janet Davis

      What a great insight… Mystery as a gift of this season and one that will “dissolve” when we see God face to face… may we all catch your vision and enjoy this moment with joy and freedom. Thanks, Gwen!

  • http://amyatheart.blogspot.com/ Amy

    I never thought of it that way but I do live in mystery. These days God seems to have put me there. As I go through chemotherapy. But I never thought of it this way. It almost gives me a hope. The mystery that God has waiting each day for me. That knowing that He is there in the mystery. What a great insight for me and so encouraging.

  • Sally

    Wow Janet, I just read this blog and the comments, as soon as I sent my “fog” email to you. I know I have not given myself time to be aware of the mysteries surrounding me. I know that big changes are going on in our church (positive ones that are palpable), and I am excited about that, but I have not been listening to the “still, small voice. ” I must take care of me first to be able to use the gifts God has given me to help other people. Thank you for being aware of, and acting on what God expects of you.

  • Gwen

    Jesus is the great, “I AM Here”, meaning He is with us each and every day, even as we as humans live in daily mystery. That is a nice peaceful thought for me.


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