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The Life Less Traveled

January 11, 2012
Who would have guessed I'd be invited to such a fancy party? This place was an honest-to-goodness mansion, absolutely huge. It's not every house that has its own ballroom and library.

And the guests? A war hero, a university professor, an old rich lady whose purse probably cost more money than my car, just to name a few. This was going to be an evening I wouldn't soon forget.

Too bad the host had to go and get himself killed. Even worse, apparently one of us had done it.

But that's really where the fun started, spending the night ransacking the mansion, desperately searching for clues to reveal who had murdered our gracious host, where they had killed him and what weapon they had used for their dastardly crime.

When I was 9, the game of Clue seemed that real to me. I loved spending cold winter nights matching wits with Professor Plum, Mrs. Peacock and the rest. I was always Colonel Mustard, and I couldn't wait to get to the end to finally figure out who did it. Was it Mr. Green in the dining room with the candlestick? Or Miss Scarlet in the conservatory with the rope?

Who doesn't love a good mystery? Whether you're playing Clue or watching "CSI," there's something about a mystery that draws us in like nothing else. But it's not that we love the mystery itself, is it? It's that we love solving the mystery. In fact, what we love is untangling the mysterious and figuring out what's really going on.

Unsolved mysteries drive us nuts. We're uncomfortable with unanswered questions, unresolved endings and puzzles with no solutions. Don't believe me? Have you ever watched a detective movie that didn't resolve itself by the closing credits or left unanswered questions? Not many, right? Because those kinds of mysteries annoy most of us to no end. Imagine buying a book of brain teasers with no solutions printed in the back. Unless you're a crack code breaker, you'd probably end up throwing it in the trash.

We are a species compelled to probe and explain that which we don't understand. It's why we have scientists and explorers and inventors. We aren't so much into mystery as we are into discovery.

And this is one reason it can be so frustrating to do business with a mysterious God. There's too much about Him we just can't get our heads around, and we don't like it. What do you do with unanswered prayer? Why does a good God allow suffering? If God already knows who's going to choose to follow Him and who won't, what's the point of life? Why doesn't He just return now?

The whole "God moves in mysterious ways" cliché comes off as trite and a little too convenient sometimes. But that doesn't mean it's not true. Great big God. Little bitty us. Of course, we don't fully understand Him.

That doesn't stop us from trying. Unbelievers attempt to explain God away, and theologians try to dissect Him like a frog. The only problem is God's not a math problem to be solved. He's a real being who has a bad habit of showing up in life at inconvenient times and blowing all of our assumptions about Him away. That's why Jesus freaked out the religious leaders of His time. He claimed to be God, yet hung out with prostitutes and crooks and welcomed them into heaven. Not exactly what everyone expected. But God's full of surprises.

The Bible says, "It's the glory of God to conceal a matter. To search out a matter is the glory of kings." In other words, we're created by the God who invented mystery but who also gave us the curiosity and the tenacity to probe the unknown. God invites questions and uses them to draw us into relationship.

The real mystery is that we can know God at all. The mystery is that He actually wants to be known and puts Himself in a context we can relate to. Almighty God I really can't understand, but a loving Father? That I get.

He is a God who plays hide 'n seek, but make no mistake about it: He is a God who wants to be found. Yes, He is a big God, and there are some questions about Him we will not be able to answer this side of heaven, but He is also a God who makes Himself known. Just not all at once.

I think of it like this: I don't fully understand my wife, but that's what keeps our relationship interesting. The mystery makes our marriage fun. Even after 17 years, I don't know everything there is to know about her, but I'm going to have a blast spending the rest of my life getting to know her better.

Same goes for my friendship with God. I don't claim to understand everything about Him, but the mystery makes me want to keep seeking Him out. I won't solve all of His mystery, but the clues I keep finding lead me to believe that He is good and that He loves me.

What's the evidence? Many different things, but, if I had to boil it down like I was solving a game of Clue, I'd say it like this: Jesus did it. Near Jerusalem. With the cross. That doesn't solve all of the mysteries of God for me, just the biggest ones that count.

Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.

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