The Gift of Bewilderment

A shell like this opened my heart in a way that hearing seven points about God could never do. “Only at the periphery of our lives, where we, and our understanding of God, are undone, can we understand bewilderment as an occasion for another way of knowing.”   Belden Lane There is nothing like being the only one walking on a desolate beach in the cool dawn of morning and stumbling upon a beautiful, broken shell that speaks to you. Now of course you know that I don’t mean the shell said something, yet it was as if, it did. I couldn’t help but plunge into the wonder of its delicate markings that formed a spiraling circle, as if to be the very mapping of the journey my heart was on. I couldn’t help but go subterranean, that place deep inside where there is no vocabulary to articulate the feeling or what I knew to be true. I was in awe, speechless. So much was being said and I was listening intently. Pondering the beautiful and the brutal of what I was ushered into left me silent and still. I dared not move for fear of losing the very encounter that my heart always longs for.So how do I describe to you what it was like for me to encounter God through a shell? It was strangely sacred, like God and I have this private exchange about the realities that are too deep for human words, so paradoxical, the silent beautiful and brutal truths mingling together way down deep, with just God and me. At times like this a gnawing frustration burrows deep too. What do I do with these wordless ponderings? The painful emotions of grief and the soothing comfort of the salt air undo me. I’m left bewildered by my inexpressible soul.While being steeped in stillness for a while, God showed me something about myself and about himself. Frustration was coming from trying so hard not to be bewildered by the deep stirrings in my heart. I was actually trying to make common sense out of something holy. God assured me of the need for quite the opposite. My bewilderment is blessed and not to be boxed up and clearly identified. Bewilderment is, as Belden Lane expresses, “an occasion for another way of knowing God. “ To be undone by the ripping grief of death is an occasion for another way of knowing God. Consoled by the beauty of strolling on a lonely beach was an occasion for another way of knowing God. Listening to the loud silence of what a shell had to say was an occasion for another way of knowing God. I didn’t have to articulate and make it understandable. It was all it had to be.To articulate what is deeply spiritual isn’t always the right thing. I wonder if a lot of Christians talk incessantly, preach too long, and teach too much because to remain in mystery is too threatening to their stated faith. Perhaps, we thirst for more information about God than experiencing the mystery of God. To embrace the mystery of the unseen and indescribable is to experience a quiet peace that surpasses the need to explain or understand. And it is a sweet peace that is palpable.Sabbatical often ushered me into this bewildering place and I found myself glad and knowing that I can rest in bewilderment.