In my memoir, Grace Period: My Ordination to the Ordinary, I tell about visiting my uncle Bud in Kansas City on my way to Yale Divinity School. Hunkered down in his red leather wing chair with his cowboy boots on the ottoman, he got right down to business.
“Now tell me, hon’,” he said, “why is it you want to go off and do this whole divinity school thing?”
As I floundered through my awkward spiel, Uncle Bud kept nodding and saying, “Uh-huh, uh-huh,” until I finally trailed off with a little one should shrug.
“Probing the mystery!” Uncle Bud boomed, socking the arm of his chair. “Yessiree Bob! Probing the mystery!”
It remains the single best explanation I have for why I left home at age fifty-six to go and study God at an Ivy League seminary. It also left me exponentially aware of allusions to the divine mystery.
Which is why a quote from the recently deceased author Jim Harrison in an “In Memoriam” column in The New York Times Book Review stopped me in my tracks.
“Often we are utterly inert before the mysteries of our lives,” Harrison wrote, “why we are where we are and the precise nature of the journey that brought us to the present.”
That, in turn, reminded me of these lines from Nan Merrill’s version of Psalm 90:
For our days on Earth are a mystery,
a searching for You,
a yearning for the great Mystery
to make itself known.
Uncle Bud died of lung cancer less than a month after bequeathing me his gift of an answer.