"Mystery:" Session No. 1 -- readings from chapter 1, "Learning to Fall"

Opening words:

At its deepest levels life is not a problem, but a mystery.  The distinction is fundamental: problems are to be solved, true mysteries are not. Each of us finds his or her own way to mystery.  At one time or another, each of us confronts an experience so powerful, bewildering, joyous, or terrifying that all our efforts to see it as a “problem” are futile.  Each of us is brought to the cliff’s edge.  At such moments we can either back away in bitterness or confusion, or leap forward into mystery.  And what does mystery ask of us?  Only that we be in its presence, that we fully, consciously, hand ourselves over.  That is all, and that is everything.  We can participate in mystery only by letting go of solutions.  This letting go is the first lesson of falling, and the hardest. 

Preparation (distribute pencils and paper or note cards)

1.  Make a list of problems you have solved in the past 48 hours (note: a "problem" can be as mundane as opening a jar of pickles or getting to church on time!).

2.  Make a list of problems you have faced in the past 48 hours but failed to solve.

3.  List some of the major problems you have solved in your life.

4.  List some of the major problems in your life you have failed to solve.


1.  Spend some time discussing the lists you all have made.

2.  What is your usual response to a problem?

3.  What is your usual response to your failure to solve a problem?

4.  Can you think of a time when you have given up trying to solve a problem?  How did that feel?  What was the result?

5.  Where in your life have you (or do you now) confront mystery?  (It may be helpful to have people write down a list of things they consider to be mysteries in their lives.)

6.  At what point does an unsolved problem become a mystery?

7.  What does it mean, for you, to live with mystery?

Closing words:

We are all—all of us—falling.  We are all, now, this moment, in the midst of that descent, fallen from heights that may now seem only a dimly remembered dream, falling toward a depth we can only imagine, glimpsed beneath the water’s surface shimmer.  And so let us pray that if we are falling from grace, let us also fall with grace, to grace.  If we are falling toward pain and weakness, let us also fall toward sweetness and strength.  If we are falling toward death, let us also fall toward life.