Ed, my neighbor next door, tends to grin easily and I never know what is happening behind his sly smile. He claims he can keep his personal business hidden behind his grin. Ed tells me that even if he won the lottery, he’d keep the news hidden away, just like it was in a bank vault with only one key which he would keep hung around his neck. Ed says, it is important not tell or show too much about yourself. According to Ed, some people have no hint of mystery to them – they appear like an open door. You don’t want to get to know everybody, as it is obvious some are always wanting or needing something.
I asked Ed if I had a little mystery about me.
“Not even a pinch. You always look sour or sleepy and there is no mystery in that,” Ed assured me.
“Well you’re wrong,” I told Ed, “my life is full of all kinds of mystery, but it is hidden from you. There is the mystery that is concealed in my sour appearance, as I am sweet just like honey behind my lemon appearance. My sleepy look is also a mystery, because hidden in that look is a wide awake person trying to maintain a reserved and dignified presence in a loud and overactive environment.” Of course, Ed had no patience with any talk of anything being mysterious about me.
“What you see is what you get. What looks sour on the outside is sour on the inside. Sleepy is sleepy when you turn it inside out,” Ed said in disgust.
I believe Ed is missing the whole point about a mystery, which is that things are not as they seem. What is secret, unexplained, and amazing is hidden in what and who we see. Any number of people and situations do not arouse our curiosity, respect or honor. In fact, we often just dismiss other people because they are poorly dressed, hungry and in need. Perhaps we only see what we want to see in other people. Appearance is not all that matters.
The Bible speaks of it this way, “When the Son of Man comes in glory… all the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate the people one from another.” There will be one group on his right and one on his left. Those on his right will be blessed because, as he says, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
The people on the right will ask, “When did we see you and do these things for you?” The Son of man will answer, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these my brothers you did for me.” Hidden in the least, that is the hungry, thirsty, stranger, the one needing clothes, the sick and the prisoner, is the person of God. It is a mystery that we find God in those who are in need. Perhaps the very ones we might tend to regularly ignore.