I grew up in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. My great grandfather and grandfather were both Assembly of God ministers and I’m deeply appreciative of many things that were passed onto me. I’ve learned along my journey it’s not always necessary to throw out the baby with the bathwater and the importance of “eating the meat and spitting out the bones” applies to almost every arena of life. You don’t have to dismiss an idea or person because you find an area of disagreement.
Growing up in this movement, however, led many of us to believe that clarity = a closer walk with Christ. If you were really in tune with the Holy Spirit then he would be speaking to you so clearly that it would be impossible to miss God’s will or the direction for your life. This isn’t intended to dismiss the role of the prophet in the church or the ability of the Holy Spirit to bring clarity in our life, instead, it’s addressing the false belief that every issue has a formula and every problem can be traced back to a deficiency in our faith.
There was always an answer, even if we had to make it up right there on the spot and adorn it with some spiritual jargon to make it slide down a little easier. Some of the most egocentric, non-biblical, manipulative statements I’ve ever heard in my life started with the phrase, “Thus saith the Lord…” We had somehow systematized the unknowable; attempting to limit the unfathomable mysteries of our faith to something we could grab onto.
Clarity is not altogether a bad thing. In fact, if you’re leading an organization, trying to grow a department, or a student with a study emphasis, some level of clarity is essential and healthy.
The problem is when clarity becomes an idol and not a tool. The problem arises when we seek clarity at all costs and our faith becomes something we wield just to get more clarity.
I remember sitting in service after service listening to ministers say phrases like, “I was driving yesterday and out of the blue God just spoke as clear as I’m speaking to you right now, and said _______.” I must admit the cynic in me always wondered if they had truly learned to decipher God’s voice so clearly. How easy life must be when there is nothing to be wrestled with or no mystery that goes unresolved?
I’ve learned that this incessant drive to know or think we know can be a cheap facade for genuine faith. I’ve learned there is a richness, depth and authenticity in the mystery of our faith that all the clarity in the world cannot surpass. Sitting in the struggle and wrestling with the uncertainty draws us back to a faith that is not rooted in what we can see or what we know, but instead, a deep, residing trust in the goodness and sovereignty of our Father.
Clarity can easily lead us to pride while mystery must lead us back to Him. I’ve also learned that I’m forced to sit in the mystery of my faith much more often than I have the benefit of clarity.
As a recovering clarity addict myself, my prayer for you is that you find a depth and richness in the mystery of your faith that goes deeper than all the clarity you could ever imagine. That you begin to live in such a way that you relish the mystery of your faith because in that moment there is no other response other than to lean in a little bit closer.