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Puzzled by God

December 20, 2014

Those who know me will know that it’s not unusual for me to get this far away look in my eyes and become oblivious to those around me. It’s not some sort of fit – it’s just me getting hooked by some puzzle or other. I zone out and ponder. I’m not a great one for normal puzzles; I’m not over fussed about jigsaws or sudoku, but I do love the puzzles of life. Life is far more of a puzzle to me than any made up puzzle could ever be. Sometimes I can figure things out, but very often I just come back to ‘people are strange’, and leave it at that. How my wife puts up with me – now that’s a question I keep coming back to! Whether I find answers or not, I just have this inner drive to ask questions; to find answers. Perhaps, that’s what led me to study science long before I became a Christian. I know it’s part of the reason that at university I found answers in Jesus.

Perhaps God is calling me to be confused and puzzled? Or perhaps puzzling over things is just part of who I am. Whatever the answer I’ve always been drawn to Luke’s account of the visit of the archangel Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1.26-29 CEV):

One month later God sent the angel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth in Galilee with a message for a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to Joseph from the family of King David. The angel greeted Mary and said, “You are truly blessed! The Lord is with you.” Mary was confused by the angel’s words and wondered what they meant.

This little passage is so full of meaning, deep spiritual power and real humanity. An angel comes to Mary. Not just any angel either, it’s the archangel Gabriel – a being who inspires terror in any human being who meets him. When I try to imagine how this must have felt I imagine turning round and finding a full grown grizzly bear or lion right next to me, so close that I can feel it’s breath on my face. Even then I know that’s nothing compared to the terror of suddenly meeting an angel.

Mary is obviously far braver than me. She is a afraid, of course, but she is mostly confused and puzzled by what the angel is telling her. If it were me, I wouldn’t have heard a word – I’d be too busy gibbering to hear or take in a thing! But Mary takes it in, and starts to question and ponder.

This is the start of a way of life for Mary. Again and again she ‘ponders’ ‘things in her heart’. Perhaps Mary was always a thoughtful child. Maybe that was one of the reasons she was chosen to be Jesus’ mother? Whenever it started, Mary’s need to question and puzzle over things seems to have overcome her terror.

If this ability of Mary’s to question was so important to God, then it makes sense that it is important for me too. I too like to ask questions and puzzle over things. So this thought is very reassuring. It’s comforting because so often I hear that as a Christian I should just ‘trust and obey’. I’m OK with trusting and obeying, it’s the ‘just’ that I have problems with. Like Mary I always find my self asking questions like, ‘why’ and ‘how’; as well as ‘why me!’ It would certainly make things much easier and less stressful if I didn’t ask so many questions but I just don’t seem to be able to help it. So, if I can’t seem to stop it’s good to know that I’m allowed to ask questions. It’s even better to know that asking questions is a good thing.

It makes sense really. Through Jesus I am God’s adopted son. I’m a much loved son, not a slave. As I grow in God’s love he seems to want me to ask questions so that I can grow more. Just like any good parent encourages their child to explore and question their world. How else am I going to learn and develop fully? The ability to ask questions of life events seems to be a key part of being human, it’s certainly a key part of being me.

So this very fallible human being is delighted that God likes him to ask questions. Being far from perfect I also know that I can’t always understand the answer. Then, like Mary I need to trust my loving God and obey – until the penny finally drops and all becomes clear. Thankfully, the Spirit working in me seems to be infinitely patient with me; I wish I was as patient with Him!

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