God is surprising.
When he wanted to grow a family, a line that would be His people, he took his sweet time. He told Abraham about it, but didn’t do much for a long time. When the possibility of having children with Sarah seemed long gone, Sarah became pregnant. She laughed. No one was more surprised. When things seem especially dark and hopeless to us, God loves sweet surprises.
God has specialized in surprises for generations. Old Testament times were often full of violence and God’s people either turned away or grew hopeless. Yet, time after time he brought them through challenging situations. There were provisional surprises in the desert, like water from a rock and quail at dinnertime. Not to mention manna every morning. There were victorious surprises, like Joshua at Jericho. There was Naomi’s surprise when Ruth stumbled upon Boaz’s field and eventually married him. Naomi, surprised to find herself a grandmother, laughed when Ruth had a baby. When Hannah cried out to the Lord from the depths of her heart, God heard and surprised her with a baby,too. Her son became the great prophet, Samuel. I imagine she didn’t expect that.
When 400 years of silence caused generations of God’s people to wonder if he was still there, a star appeared. When the religious leaders were expecting a powerful prophet-king, God chose Mary and a baby was born King. Surprising? Unexpected?
Jesus surprised people all the time. He shocked wedding guests at Cana with fine wine when they feared only water remained. Jesus surprised his disciples when a small sack lunch fed five thousand hungry listeners. When Jesus heard that his friend Lazarus had died, he tarried two extra days. But then the glorious surprise as Lazarus walked from the tomb.
It’s as if God is just out of sight, plotting a new way to turn the lights on and reveal the balloons and friends shouting, “Happy Birthday!” to the unsuspecting one.
Darkness overtakes us. All seems frightening and hopeless and we cannot see our hands in front of our faces.
My young friend, a girl in 7th grade, part of my small group of Bible study girls, had a tumor in her brain. The tumor was large and needed to be removed as soon as possible. Imagine her parents’ fear. Imagine her sister’s concern. Imagine her own confusion as to what God would do.
This family knows God. Abraham knew God. Joshua knew God. Mary knew God. And they all experienced God’s glorious surprise. When things seemed hopeless, God pulled out all the balloons. The tumor was benign and Josi is recovering. God faithfully surprises.
If God were only predictable, readily explainable, He would not be God. Choosing to believe that God always has more surprises up his sleeve: that’s faith.
Thank you God for not doing things exactly the way we would do them. Thank you for saving your great power sometimes for a glorious surprise. Thank you that when our time on earth runs thin, you have yet another surprise waiting for us.
God is surprising.