What if embracing mysteries, whether directly or passively, was vital to our spiritual health?

Amelia Earhart’s whereabouts. D.B. Cooper’s identity. There’s a cadaver, but who is the murderer? And how am I always left with one lonely sock out of the dryer?

Mystery surrounds us every day, yet because of our aversion to change, we are usually apprehensive of the unknown. But what if embracing mysteries, whether directly or passively, was vital to our spiritual health?

The Mysteries of Seeing The Mysteries

As soon as Bill Watterson and John Kascht released their book The Mysteries in October 2023, I bought it. I love Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes series and after nearly three decades of retirement, his dark, odd little tome was captivating.

I tore through the story of a kingdom hunting forces called “Mysteries,” enjoying the mixed media art (primarily done by Kascht) but perplexed by Watterson’s words. I’ve come back to the book multiple times in the last six months and I think the ambiguous ending is perfect, allowing readers to get different messages while remaining… a mystery.

After my initial perusal of the book, I started seeing mysteries everywhere. I mean, for around two months, I literally saw the word “mystery” all over. It was similar to never seeing a gold Toyota Highlander until we bought our Golden Girl (nicknamed for something the Q-tip quartet might have driven), and then I started seeing those Highlanders all the time. Were the mysteries providence or coincidence? I’m not sure, but the exploration was interesting.

A Haunting Vision on Arrakis

Shortly after my first pass at The Mysteries, I watched Kenneth Branagh’s newest Agatha Christie adaptation, A Haunting in Venice. As a Hercule Poirot who-dunit, it’s no surprise that mysteries were involved, but one scene stood out. After a seance, Tina Fey’s character intones excitement knowing there are mysteries in the world and that God is real. Poirot disagrees, asking why God would break His rule with a psychic.

How we react when an explanation doesn’t match our expectations says a lot about our worldview. 

My guess is that God’s aforementioned “rule” is His silence in the face of humanity’s pain. We’ll get to God’s silence in a minute, but it fascinates me how two people reacted to the same experience. Tina Fey’s character is a writer and Hercule Poirot is a world-famous detective. Both are about the business of mysteries, but where one sees them as a proof of God’s existence, the other sees them as fact-based secrets not yet logically explained.

Can science explain everything? Around the time I saw A Haunting, someone told me that doctors can’t explain why acetaminophen helps headaches. (Sure, I could use some amazing cosmic example, but hey, Tylenol was “coincidentally” lobbed at me as inscrutable.) So, no, science can’t explain everything, but neither can a deeply spiritual person. Who were the Sabeans? How can God be Three-in-One?

This leads us to a straddling question. Is there something between science and spirit? Magic, maybe? I’m a slow reader, so I had been plodding through Frank Herbert’s Dune for some time when I read The Mysteries. But because I was hyper-aware of the inexplicable, Lady Jessica’s transformation into a Reverend Mother impacted me deeply. During the process Jessica recalls, “This wasn’t exactly how they did it at the Bene Gesserit school, she knew. No one had ever introduced her to the mysteries of it, but she knew.” So how much stock do we give to someone like Herbert, with his ideas of Messianic fulfillment due to carefully implanted prophecies that perplex and convince the masses?

Working in a Silo Causes a Flood of Fury

Human-made mysteries can be fun—a detective story or scavenger hunt—but when it comes to a search for truth that impacts our lives now and in eternity, a serious approach is necessary. In both cases, a well-told story meets basic human needs. But the storyteller claiming to represent reality has a grave responsibility and makes a meaningful claim. When L. Ron Hubbard invented Dianetics, wrote Battlefield Earth, and made up the mysterious religion of Scientology, his followers considered him god-like.

The Bible talks about the mysterious using figurative language in the Old and New Testaments, but the apostle Paul often discusses this directly, referring to “mysteries.” Twenty times the apostle talks about mysteries, regarding five different categories of them, usually pointing toward Jesus. Why are we humans drawn to the mysterious and to charismatic leaders who seem to have answers? The easy response is that we prefer to feel better informed and to belong to something. But is that healthy? How we react when an explanation doesn’t match our expectations says a lot about our worldview. 

It seems we’re meant to hunt after explanations to the mysteries, but we’ll never have all the answers.

Silo was another show I watched during my months of mysteries. And as a tale of an isolated underground community surrounded by unquestioned (yet questionable) tradition, it was a great addition to this exploration. When faced with radical findings, Tim Robbins’ character says, “The founders left us with many mysteries,” and then immediately moves on with other business.

Are we supposed to switch off logic, suppress our feelings, or shrug off inexplicable inconsistencies? Professor and author Matthew Lynch says none of those responses are best. In his book Flood and Fury (yes, reader, this paperback concluded my months of mysteries) tackling Old Testament violence, Lynch repeatedly tells his audience to embrace mystery.

Because I enjoy being puppet master, I’m going to have Professor Lynch answer Hercule Poirot’s earlier statement that God doesn’t break His rule of silence on getting involved in human pain. Lynch states,

But here it’s important to distinguish between God’s utterly mysterious otherness and God’s utter hiddenness. Theological affirmations of God’s mystery protect the categorical uniqueness of God. “God differs differently” than the way that one person is different from another and God remains mysterious to them.1

Yet Paul also makes clear that we know “in part” (1 Cor 13:12). God isn’t utterly unknowable. The mystery of God doesn’t leave us without any accurate sense of who God is. We have a sufficient but partial grasp of God and God’s ways. It’s sufficient to foster trust and love for God and others, but not enough to unravel the wicked problem of violence in the Old Testament. Instead, God is found “in order to be sought.”2 My prayer is that the mystery of God’s ways in Scripture—expressed in the particular mystery of violence—will drive us toward the ongoing pursuit of the mysterious God who encounters us in Scripture.

If Lynch is right, the mysterious God of the universe uses mysteries, and His words in the Bible, to encounter and be encountered.

An Enduring Mystery

Not every mystery or “solve” is an attempt to know God; however, both are an opportunity to do so.

Each of these pop culture artifacts aren’t cerebral or postulating on the science of the universe. It appears this is vital to our spiritual health. They’re speaking about various portions of everyday life or a supernatural experience. It seems we’re meant to hunt after explanations to the mysteries, but we’ll never have all the answers. However, when we can accept or even enjoy these two truths simultaneously, we’ll have some form of peace. Over the last few months I’ve grown to accept that. I may find (some) answers, but it’s humbling and exciting to know there will always be mysteries.

  1. Kathryn Tanner, Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity, 2001. ↩︎
  2. Augustine, On the Trinity. ↩︎


  1. interesting that what we call “sacraments’ in the West are known in the East (in the Greek) as “mysteries.”
    John Chrysostom wrote that they are called mysteries because what we believe is not the same as what we see.
    Fr Kallistos Ware: “the whole Christian life must be seen as a unity, as a single mystery or one great sacrament”
    For a Christian, the divine mystery is to be pondered and treasured, but even more to be experienced in daily living (our lives as incarnate mystery because of Christ the Great Incarnate Mystery), and particularly to be celebrated in the sacraments.

    1. Brian, excellent comments and quotes. I was just interviewed by a radio show about my writing this article and as I prepared for the discussion, I noticed your comment here. You can hear the segment: https://omny.fm/shows/john-kathy/the-ride-home-friday-may-17-2024?t=50m46s. Interestingly, one of the hosts mentioned his Catholic background (insinuating “sacraments”). Having never made the connection prior, I don’t believe it was a coincidence to see you both mention the same thing within minutes.
      In fact, it’s made me consider doing a follow up to this article exploring an East/West exploration of mysteries. As you said, the Christian should be pondering the Divine mystery, while simultaneously experiencing Jesus (the Great Incarnate Mystery) living and working through us. Thanks for your expansion on this article!

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