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Great Leaders Embrace Mystery—Do You?

One thing we all long for is simplicity. We’re looking for ways to reduce—to make the main things the main things and ways to push unimportant things to the side, or perhaps, completely out of sight. Out of sight, out of mind, we say. We say it over and over, a mantra, a prayer. Except saying it fills up our mouths with so many words that a simple thought becomes something complex—a mouthful of meaningless words recited in hopes that we would remember what’s important. We’re left with the mantra; the ‘important thing’ has evaporated.

The trouble with simplicity is that it rarely sits well with love. In an effort to embrace simplicity, we edit, we hack away at, the extraneous, looking for the essential. Followers of Jesus usually get down to love—but love is always connected to people, and people are almost never simple.

People are complex. People are hectic. People are wandering, staggering through life like a drunk man in the dark who is looking for a bed that is hiding from him. Even people who are successful and ‘with it’ and educated and ‘saved’ are erratic—often the sparks of genius are combustable and burn through relationships, leaving loved ones hot and smoking, the unfortunate recipients of ‘winning.’

I’m not sure that simple is an attainable goal, or even the right goal. Rather than ‘simple,’ as followers of Jesus, we should be looking for ‘meaningful.’ Because we’re committed to the way of love, there’s a really good chance that it’s going to be complicated, but it can be meaningful too.

Complexity often contains a great deal of meaning. The most difficult people (the ones closest to us) and situations (the ones closest to us) usually contain a high level of meaning. In facing difficulty, embracing ambiguity and holding out hope, we are simultaneously digging down into the very foundations of meaning.

This is not the same thing as understanding. Some things are filled with meaning, but relatively little understanding. Often, the people who mean the most to me are the most complicated, and those whom I understand the least. They are beautiful abstractions, phantom, dancing lights that move this way and that across a cold, night sky. When I married my wife, I thought I knew her. Now, after 14 years, both meaning and mystery have grown in our life together. I know her, but I do not know her. She is complex, and a lifetime of loving her may never unravel into any real understanding.

Simple is overrated, so is understanding. Let’s embrace meaning and mystery.  

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Adam Russell is a worship leader turned pastor. He also leads a worship band known simply as "The Embers." He and his wife, Heather, along with their three children, live and minister in central Kentucky.