Last week, a friend sent me this quote: “We are all mystics. The trouble is, we usually miss the significance of the moment because we are not present. Mystics are those who notice–and then live their lives in the light of the glimpses of Oneness that, if we are attentive, are there for us all.” Dr. David G. Benner posted it on his Facebook page, apparently. It’s from his “book in process, provisionally entitled Human Being and Becoming.”
I love this quote for many reasons. But mostly for its inclusive definition “mystics.” Though few of us may identify as mystics, we indeed are all mystics–or we can be–if and when we notice God and when we seek to live “in the light of the glimpses” of God. (Isn’t that wonderful?)
So, today again, I was back to wondering why so many Christians fear the very word mysticism. When I asked this on Twitter, one woman wrote the word itself sounds “witch-crafty.” Which, of course, it does. Probably because mystic sounds, well, mysterious (mysterious and mystic are related, of course. Both meaning, root-wise, of things that are not seen [Greek] or that have hidden meaning [Latin]).
But that the word sounds creepy does not make it so. And just because something is creepy doesn’t mean it’s bad. Of course, I say this as one who loves all things creepy. Well, not old-man-riding-bikes-slowly-past-playgrounds creepy. But the bats-and-cobwebs, dim-lights-and-candles, wandering through an rambling dusty mansion sort. I don’t like witch-craft (remember: I love Jesus), but I do like mysteries. I like spooky stories. I like to jump out of my skin. I like to shiver–even when it’s warm out.
I’ve written before–and I’m sure I’ll write again–about how this love of mystery and creepy is actually what draws me to God. Because God, in his mystery, in his otherworldly-ness, in the ways he reaches into this universe and tingles our spines in his presence is kinda creepy. In a holy way. In a good way. God has redeemed my “love of the dark,” as my Enneagram type calls it, turned it into a holy quest for his presence in those dark and stormy spaces.
But of course not all Christians appreciate this connection–between a love of spooky and a love of Jesus. And I get that. There are lots of good reasons for this. So I also see how this disdain for the creepy makes people leery of mysticism in the Christian faith.
Which is why a broader definition of mysticism is necessary. It’s why I love Benner’s idea that we are mystics whenever we notice God. Pure and simple. If you’ve felt God in the hot summer sun, if you’ve heard his voice whisper through a lyric, if you’ve seen the love of Jesus in two once-enemies embracing or in your kids snuggling on the sofa, you’re a mystic.
And when we notice God at work, when we notice his voice or his scent or his touch or his presence, we’re invited to follow him, step deeper into the mystery of God. Into his good and wondrous (and only rarely, creepy*) glory.
*Don’t freak out. The Bible will back me up on these creepy-glory stories.
P.S. Another person responded to my twonder with her frustration over people “hearing” God tell them to cheat on their spouse or something. In another post, let’s talk about discernment and mysticism… And then maybe I’ll move on to another topic…