What Does It Mean To Be A People of Mystery?

Unitarian Universalists love puzzles. We proudly announce that we are the religion that loves questions and questioning. Or to put it another way, we love figuring out life’s mysteries.

But what if mystery isn’t just something to figure out? What if it’s also something to be listened to? This is the lesser recognized call of our faith. Being a people of mystery isn’t just about engaging life as a marvelous puzzle. It’s also about allowing yourself to be spoken to by life’s wonder. One of the most elegant articulations of this comes from the poet Mary Oliver, a much-loved poet of Unitarian Universalists. In her poem, Wild Geese, she writes,

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

Oliver’s call to listen for life’s announcements implies a letting go. Mystery is funny this way. You can’t make it speak. Indeed the more you pursue the answers to life’s mysteries; the more distant they become. If we want mystery to speak, it seems we have to be willing to be caught off guard. UU humanist minister and poet, David Breeden, captures this beautifully when he writes,

I dug and dug
Deeper into the earth
Looking for blue heaven
Choking always
On piles of dust rising
Then once
At midnight
I slipped
And fell into the sky

Slipping, and then falling into the sky. Is there a better way to describe our dance with mystery? Isn’t this what all the great mystics have been trying to tell us from the start? That sitting at the heart of mystery is not the unknown, but unity. We fall into mystery and it falls into us. Its voice is one that whispers, “I am you and you are me.” Mystery doesn’t put up barriers; it dissolves them. Haven’t all of us faced the wonder and mystery of a sunset, the stars, a baby’s first cry or a lover’s wet kiss and thought to ourselves, “Who I am does not end at the barrier of my skin”?

So friends, this month, let’s let ourselves fall in and open up. So many opportunities to slip into the sky and let it slip into us. Let’s put down all the puzzling and the figuring out. Just long enough to notice that life isn’t simply trying to stump us. It’s also trying to connect with us.