Pondering Divine Obscurity

“Once language exists only to convey information, it is dying. …By understanding the words [of a news article] you seem to deaden them.”

– Richard Hugo, 20th century American Poet

I like to think that Hugo is onto something. Perhaps words are living entities holding a lifespan. If so, their lifespan seems to exist in the shadows and obscurity of mystery. As soon as that mystery dissolves into understanding (and that process of communication is complete) the life of those words begins to die. Words in a news article deaden after they are read because their purpose is only to transport information. Words in a poem, however, stay alive because they are ever-changing by the person who reads them, the context in which they are read and the obscurity of which they always hide away part of their full meaning. You never capture and take away the full meaning or experience of a poem. Therefore, each time we return to the words of a poem we find them still alive, still partly hidden in mystery. Only if elusive and partly uncapturable will our words live on.

Too often we try to possess knowledge of scripture like a news article. However, to boil Jesus down to information that we can read and process through in order to fully understand and comprehend denies the uncontainable nature of God. Jesus, as one of the persons of God, is so far beyond our complete comprehension (not to say that we cannot comprehend much of who He is) that to think the Word is merely a collection of information revolving around Jesus’ life which we can understand logically and possess is not only an insult to His greatness, vastness and majesty but is also an act of crucifixion because we are deadening the Word made flesh- which is Jesus, our Savior.

Instead, the Name of Jesus is a poem to be pondered, to be reopened and gazed at again and again as we move through life’s different contexts and stages. We find the light of His spirit illuminating Him differently at different times which keeps us returning- not only to find the historical collection of information on Jesus’ person but to search the partially obscured mystery of His immense, uncontainable beauty.

The first followers of Jesus were beaten within an inch of their lives but, bloodied and beaten, they walked away rejoicing. There is something indestructible within them- something the Sanhedrin cannot touch, something the whips cannot flog out of their tearing flesh, something deeper than blood, something deeper than bones: the confidence of Christ- the Word made flesh- still alive. The words in their hearts then pour out, alive and impassioned, fraught with conviction and deep-seated joy. The words the apostles speak are the very mystery of the living Christ spreading forth from suffering to rejoicing.

Like the first followers, heeding the Word leads us to a great worthiness- a worthiness to suffer for the name. Perhaps we, too, should rejoice. We come to scripture, not only for the knowledge of the life of Christ so as to be shaped and formed but, more importantly, to be in the very presence of God. He is alive. His Words are alive; He is writing them deeply on our hearts.

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