One of the best parts of life and sometimes one of the hardest parts is that we never know what will happen next. You can try to predict the future. You can try to control it. You can worry full-time about it. But, truthfully and probably blissfully we do not know what will happen next.
One of the fun things about being alive awhile is that you begin to see things come full circle. You get to witness how stories end or what the next chapters are. You can see your life as having a narrative arc with themes and twists and ironies woven in.
As a child and teen I was painfully shy. I never spoke to adults if I could avoid it. I melted if someone called on me in class. This lasted all the way through seminary. Imagine my surprise that I would become a preacher. Even when I first perceived God calling me into ministry I quietly said, “Okay but I’m never going to say anything out loud or in public.” Surprise! If God smirks, I bet God was smirking.
I love seeing the surprises of life. I’m the one laughing now as the first teens I had in my youth group are parents of teens. I truly didn’t see that coming. The ones that gave me the most trouble are leading youth Bible studies now. I also did not predict that one.
One of my favorite Bible stories is recorded in Acts Chapter 3. Peter and John, disciples of Jesus, are going to the temple for a prayer meeting. There is a man there begging at the gates. He has been crippled from birth. Peter and John heal him and he starts walking, then dancing and praising God. Everyone who sees it is freaked out. Peter can’t help himself, he starts preaching with this opening line, “Why are you all surprised? This is God at work, right before your eyes.”
I love the pleasant surprise. I love picturing a smiling, even funny and ironic God at work in big things, like healings and transformations and the littlest things too.
God always surprises me with sunrises and sunsets and their glory and timing.
I believe God places signs and surprises in all our lives if we are awake, aware and in touch with spiritual possibilities.
I have a controversial grandma name, Mimosa. It was chosen for me before I had grandsons and I have embraced it because of its sparkling festive uniqueness. It seems people older than me hate the grandma name Mimosa and they always tell me. They’ve been telling me my grandson would never be able to say it. They have been right about that. We’ve been coaching him now for two years to say any version of Mimosa, like Mo or MoMo or Mosa. He has refused. However, just this week he started calling me something. It has been one of those delightful funny life surprises. He calls me Mocha. Mocha. No one saw that coming. How, I wondered, did he go ahead and pick a different tasty drink to call me? It makes me smile whenever I hear it or think about it, such a pleasant funny surprise. A gift. The name will evolve more, of course. We do not know yet what it will be. Today though, I’m Mocha.
I like pleasant surprises so much I try to give them to others as well as a way of sharing God’s surprising grace-filled nature. Our college age son is supposed to mow our yard each week to earn back to school money. Sometimes my husband and I will do the yard for him. I pay him anyway. My husband thinks that is outrageous. I think it is instead the gift of a pleasant surprise.
I wonder what would happen if we watched our lives for pleasant surprises, endings and chapters we didn’t see coming as well as other twists and turns and gifts? What would happen if we started being the authors of pleasant surprises for others?
Healings, miracles and grace gifts happen every day. Sometimes they are laced with humor and fun. Sometimes we are overwhelmed and just call it a coincidence. Still, Peter’s words echo through the years, “Why are you surprised? This is God we are talking about.”
Dr. Cindy is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa/Mocha to Pace and Keller, breast cancer survivor and transformed shy person.