Here's something you may not know about me: I am not a fan of surprises. Actually, that's a bit of an understatement - surprises are probably in my top 5 list of things I strongly dislike. And I'm talking any kind of surprise, good or bad.
For example, I taught myself to read at age 4, and I've been a devour-er of books ever since. And from as far back as I can remember, I always read the last page first. You know how most people get so annoyed if someone "ruins" the end of a book or movie by telling them what happens? That would never be me - I always want to know. This must be a fairly rare phenomenon in human nature, since no one ever believes me when I ask how a movie ends, or what happened in a TV show, or how the plot twists in a book...And the thing is, it never ruins my enjoyment of the book/movie/show - it maybe even enhances it.
Another confession: when I was a kid, I snooped. In fact, I was a champion snooper. I managed to discover my Christmas presents nearly every year. (Don't worry, my Mom already knows - I think she's forgiven me :) ) What a thrill it was to feast my eyes on what was to come! And again, instead of spoiling the surprise of Christmas morning, I think it actually augmented my anticipation of the big day and the delight it would hold for us all.
And a funny story: My dear Mother planned a really great surprise party for my 18th birthday - the traditional pop-out-and-yell-SURPRISE! kind of event. I was totally oblivious to the now-obvious plot to detain me at church while all my guests made their way to my house and concealed themselves and their belongings. The couple whose job it was to keep me away finally delivered me to my house and we went in. (How embarrassing to admit this now - I still can't believe I did this...) Our living room had french doors opening into a hallway that led to stairs going up to the bedrooms. I was walking through this hallway past the living room doors when everyone jumped out and yelled "SURPRISE" with big grins and expressions of gleeful anticipation spread on their unsuspecting faces. And what was my reaction to this generous desire to bring me joy? Well, I just kept on walking like I hadn't even seen or heard them, headed upstairs to my bedroom, and all my friends were left standing there, feeling foolish, I'm sure. (I'm blushing now just writing and remembering...how awful of me...) It wasn't a planned reaction on my part, it just happened, almost in spite of myself, I think. I came back down to the party only a few minutes later and everything proceeded according to plan, and a good time was had by all. But I think this pretty clearly demonstrates my aversion to surprise.
So there's the history. I tell you all this to illustrate the following point: God is a God of surprises! I've been listening to a lot of teachings from a brilliantly wise and joyful British man named Graham Cooke lately. From among the many, many nuggets of insight I've gleaned from his words, one bit has floated to the surface and demanded closer scrutiny. Mr. Cooke observes that God is a paradox: He is completely consistent in His nature (who He is) but completely unpredictable in His actions (what He does). The trick is learning to live within this paradox.
I've spent most of my life as a Christian (that's almost 34 years now) wondering, fearing, dreading what in the world God was going to do next. I could never experience real peace and joy because I didn't know what God had up His sleeve at any given time, and that made me restless and anxious. I always had this feeling of impending doom hanging over me, that the proverbial ax could drop at any moment. I'm beginning to see now that I didn't trust Him because I didn't really know Him. I didn't understand His nature. Or rather, I had an inaccurate and twisted picture of Who He is. (Oh, how the enemy loves to twist the truth - one of his main and most effective strategies...)
I'm so very grateful for this ever-increasing freedom into which God is leading me, deeper and higher into His love and grace and truth. As I come to understand and experience more and more of Him, I'm finding my aversion to surprise is abating a bit. As He reveals His essential goodness, as I see more and more evidence of it in my life, I'm learning to trust. And it's every bit as wonderful and wonder-filled as He promises it will be.
I remember one good surprise. It was the Christmas of my grade 12 year (incidentally about 2 weeks before the aforementioned surprise birthday party). I don't recall whether or not I had successfully snooped out my gifts that year, maybe I'd given up on the practice by then? No, wait - I think I had ferreted out most of my loot, which made the impending surprise all the more...surprising :) Nevertheless, we had opened all our presents and were very well satisfied with the haul when Dad "noticed" a good-sized present way in behind the tree, kind of hidden, with a tag indicating it was for my Mother. Then one of them said something like, "Oh wait a minute, I think that's the wrong tag!" and handed it to me. I opened it to find the one thing I'd been longing for but not expecting due to the cost - a ghetto blaster with a CD player (this was 1992, mind you...). I was floored. I cried, they cried, it was beautiful. I felt so loved.
When I consider God's surprises through the lens of His great goodness and unfathomable love for me, maybe I can concede that a surprise isn't such a bad thing, after all.