Surprised by….

It had been a particularly exhausting week when finally I was able to enjoy a bit of “me time.” Getting my hair cut was first on my list. The brand new hairstylist invited me to her chair and introduced herself. As usually happens, she asked me what I did for a living. Being tired and not really wanting to converse much, I simply said that I was a Salvation Army officer. “Oh,” was her response as she continued to work on my hair. After a quiet minute or two and after I began thinking, ‘oh, good. She’s not a chatty person.’ Then she says, “so what do you do as an officer?” Not really being in the mood for conversation, I simply gave her a real short version of officership.  She went quiet again. Then she said, “does that mean that you also do counseling?” Ok, now my antenna fully engages as I say, “yes” and identify my counseling as pastoral in nature. “Oh,” she says as she goes quiet again. Now I am sending SOSs to the Lord, praying for his guidance. She then leans very close to my ear and quietly whispers, “I found out yesterday that my three year old son was molested.” Over the course of the next few minutes we spoke quietly together. I honestly do not remember what was said but I do know that the Holy Spirit spoke through me in those few moments.

C.S. Lewis described his conversion to Christianity as being “surprised by joy.” He wrote a whole book about it. Lewis was raised in a Christian home. But his intellectualism led him to atheism. Lewis, however, could never get comfortable with his disbelief. As he said, “I could not get away from Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet.” Then in the college term of 1929 he was brought kicking, struggling, eyes darting in every direction, back home to Christ. He was overwhelmed by joy.

To be surprised is to feel wonder, astonishment, amazement, at something unanticipated. To be surprised is to be dumfounded, even flabbergasted. But not everything that comes our way in the course of a day can in any way be classified as joyful. Like my experience with the hairstylist, some things that come our way can be absolutely heartbreaking.

“Be prepared.” That’s the boy scout motto. It is also the motto of the Christian. Jesus tells us in a parable that to be prepared  is like the master of a large estate who goes on a journey. When he returns home, he expects his servants to be at their posts so that when he knocks on the door, they will open the door immediately for him to come in. If they are prepared for his coming, then the master will reward them bountifully. They will sit at his table and he himself will serve them. If they are not at their post, the master will deal with that, too. Be ready, counseled Jesus. Be prepared. There is probably no wiser advice than that. To be prepared is also wise advice in terms of our relationship with Christ. And it is wise advice in our everyday lives.

Preparation is often the difference between success and failure. Jesus wanted us to see that. In the parable mentioned above we find that it contains one of the great truths of life. People who are prepared have an advantage over those who are not. Being prepared means that, while we may be caught off guard, we have the means to deal with any confrontation.
The good news is that preparation can be easy. Being prepared means that we are closely connected to Jesus who gives us the Holy Spirit who gives the guidance and power we need to handle all situations. One word of advice. You can make the work of the Holy Spirit in you a tad easier by study of Scripture and by spending quiet time in His presence. This obviously strengthens your relationship with Him as well as deepens your trust. Then when you are surprised by circumstances you are not left defenseless.

“Almighty God, You have promised strength for the work of this day, power to handle the pressures, light for the way, patience in problems, help from above, unfading courage, and undying love. In the stresses and strains of living, often I sense my wells have run dry. Life has a way of de-powering me, depleting my resiliency, and draining my patience. People can get me down and perplexities stir me up. 

“Lord, I pray for a fresh flow of Your strength-strength strength to think clearly, serve creatively, and endure consistently; strength to fill up diminished human resources; silent strength that flows from Your limitless source, quietly filling them with artesian power.

You never ask me to do more than You will provide the strength to accomplish. So make me a riverbed for the flow of Your creative Spirit. Fill this day with serendipities, ties, unexpected surprises of Your grace. Be Lord of every conversation, the unseen guest at every meeting and the guide of every decision. In the name of Him who is the way, the truth and the life.” –Lloyd John Ogilvie, Quiet Moments with God

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