This article marks a full-year that I have been writing on the topic of the path of discipleship. It seems like a fitting time to move on to another project, not that 52 weeks tells the whole story of being a disciple. Volumes of book have been written on this topic and many more volumes are to come. This is not because there are brand new ideas. Often what strikes someone as new and exciting is a variation on something that is ancient. As the author of Ecclesiastes writes, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
My hope in writing this series has been that you, as the reader, will take the next step, trying these practices and seeking to grow in the virtues. There is never moment where we can say, “Now, I’ve got it. Now, I understand.” Discipleship is a continuous path. It is the way that, as Christians, we deal with what happens in life.
Moreover, our God chooses to be elusive, larger than we can comprehend and always a bit out of reach. When we think we understand the depths of who God is, it turns out that God is much deeper. Martin Luther spoke of the masks of God. When we think we have identified who God really is, it turns out to be only a mask, often of our own creation. As Saint Augustine wrote, “If you think you understand it, it is not God you are talking about.”
This idea brings me back to beginning, that virtue of awe and wonder at the nature of God. As I write this, we are once again approaching Christmas, that festival where we consider what it means to have a God who became as one of us in Jesus, the mystery of the fully human and fully divine one. Declaring Jesus to be fully human and fully divine sounds definitive and yet, if this idea is taken seriously, it will not take long to realize it makes no sense. Yet this is who we proclaim Jesus to be. It is why Christmas matters; why Good Friday matters; why Easter matters.
I can give you no better advice than to sit with that mystery. You might poke and pull at it like some Gordian knot. You might walk away from it in frustration. I would advise you to treat the mystery like walking into a modern art piece. You know it means something but that something eludes you, so you walk around it and take it in, appreciating the pieces that you can understanding and wondering at the moments that you can’t. Meditate on it and let it stir up that feeling of awe and wonder that comes with encountering the holy.
Then let me close with a final note of good news. It is all right that we do not understand everything about God and Jesus because, from the midst of mystery, God has made us a promise. We are loved, not because we are great or wise or perfectly good. We are loved because God is love itself. This cannot be taken away and our lack of understanding, our failure to be perfect disciples, or our periodic self-centeredness, cannot remove it. You are loved because God is love. This reality sets you free to follow the path of discipleship imperfectly but joyfully. Keep walking, my friends.