A Riddle to Ourselves (Isaiah 55:8)

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Submitted by Andy McIlvain.

Isaiah 55:8

Riddle me this is a synonym for a demand that the listener solve a conundrum (something puzzling).

That conundrum is you and me. We are a riddle (a mystifying question) to ourselves within the paradox (apparent contradiction) of the Christian life. Life is short, sometimes very short, and even as we close in on our death, we remain a riddle to our own understanding. Just as we never really know our parents, we do not know ourselves.

We soon realize that we fail at our good intentions in life by virtue of being human, limited in understanding and capacity. “The Christian faith is full of paradoxes primarily because our Christian faith is rooted in divine mysteries. Paradox is the language of mystery – the best way to speak of divine mysteries,” says Pastor Richard J. Vincent.

Paradox and human limitation are riddles built into the nature of things, into our fallenness. Every discovery, advance, and insight made in our material world is partial and imperfect. The limits of our knowing and understanding makes life complex. Our access to our own thoughts is just as indirect and fallible as our access to the thoughts of other people.

God is at work, and his purposes of salvation and for the world will not fail. There are things in our lives that don’t seem to make sense yet; as Christians, we have experienced enough of God’s power, wisdom and love that we understand that the riddles and paradoxes of our lives really do fit into God’s plan and providence, even if we don’t understand it now through the glass darkly.

In Romans 7:15, Paul describes his own doublemindedness: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” We fail to do the good that we will, and we indulge the evil that we hate. G. K. Chesterton said, “The paradox of being human is that we’re both ‘chief of creatures’ and ‘chief of sinners.’

Mark Noll states in his From Every Tribe and Nation, “The cross, in sum, was God’s everlasting “no” to the most fundamental human idolatry of regarding the self as a God. It was God’s final word of condemnation for all efforts to enshrine humanity at the center of existence.”

Elizabeth Lesser says in Marrow : A Love Story:

I propose that most of our significant relationships can be mended, sweetened, enlarged. And I propose that deepening one relationship can unlock all sorts of goodness in your life — with other people, with your work, with your fate… This is the paradox at the heart of being human… if we wait for the perfect time, the perfect person, the perfected self, we’ll stay frozen in an idea of love. But if we fearlessly engage with the life spread out before us, we will be rewarded with a heart that can hold it all — happiness and messiness, clarity and confusion, love and loss.

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