Do you like surprises? Are you sure? Always? If you asked me I would answer, YES, of course. I’ve been on both the giving and receiving of big surprises. They can be so fun. But lets face it… there are surprises and then there are SURPRISES.
I’ve had this niggly feeling deep in my gut that I don’t want anymore surprises with the last chapters of my life. I want to see how it all turns out, to view the rolling credits of my life movie. I want to know the nice tidy ending with a big red bow. I tell myself if I just get a sneak peak, then I’ll be better able to endure the messy middle where there is tension, conflict and disappointment and know it will all be worth it.
I am hard to surprise. My mom reminds me of the time when I was six. I found the Christmas present stash, opened them and re-wrapped them. I just wanted to know.
There was the time when Doug, who should be rewarded for his many valiant efforts, asked me what I wanted for my birthday. “Oh nothing dear.” It was a surprise to get exactly that… nothing.
The day Doug asked me to marry him was most definitely a surprise… for both of us! It didn’t go according to my plan. I insisted that Doug ask my dad first. I made sure daddy would tip me off when this happened, so I’d be for-warned. Doug thought proposing on our international flight to Scotland was too perfect to pass up, but my dad had been unreachable. Doug thought this little misstep was no big deal.
Well into a complicated departure, the captain came over the intercom and said, “it’s a lovely night as we cross the Atlantic. In fact it’s a romantic night. And Debbie, Doug would like to know if you’d marry him.” With that, Doug dropped to his knee in the narrow aisle. The guy behind us tossed him the ring and he looked at me wide eyed.
Before you think I’m a total moron, that would shock you too right?! Besides we had discussed it. We were excited to date again, while living in the same city before committing to marriage. Yes we had dated eight years prior, but our more recent “back together again” dating was long distance, Doug in Los Angeles and me in Wash D.C.
Even wider eyed, I looked at Doug in disbelief. I motioned for him to stand up and hug me as if to say, stop, you’re making a scene. A hug wouldn’t satisfy him. He repeated the question, more firmly. Debbie, what’s your answer? I softly whispered, “yes” as if my quiet response gave me some wiggle room. It didn’t.
A bottle of Dom Perignon arrived at our seats in coach, a gift from the captain. We popped the cork and toasted with the new friends sitting around us. The captain came back on the intercom to update the other travelers. “For those of you following the Doug and Debbie saga, she said yes.” And the sleepy plane erupted in applause. There was no turning back.
Why is it that I wanted to be for-warned? It’s that Control freak-ery in me. I have this sense that if I know what to expect, then I’m able to manage the outcome. I have this innate desire to get my hands in the cake batter so I can make sure it comes out chocolate.
My strong motivation to manage and direct outcomes with people and events in my life is one thing, but that same demanding behavior with God is not only pointless, but sinful.
As I’ve been wrestling with my faithless thoughts, God has been near. And He’s reminded me of some valuable truths.
You’re Not Ready
I love avocados. Their buttery soft texture with salt and pepper is one of life’s wondrous delicacies. I often buy a small package while they are still rock hard. Have you ever tried to enjoy an avocado pre-maturely? Have you ever tried to rush the ripening process? I have. I’ve stored them in a brown paper sack; I’ve cut into the flesh and pureed them; I’ve warmed them in a low oven, each method with very limited success. An avocado, before it’s time, is awful. And so it would be if I got that sneak peak of the closing curtain on my life. The experience would be awful.
- It wouldn’t make sense because I would have missed out on the vital history needed for it to make sense. With my limited perspective, I see only trees and not God’s forest.
- It would cause me to become complacent. Wow. Just look at that life with a big red bow. I’m done with the hard work. Let’s just sail into the sunset.
- It would undermine my dependence on God. If I know how things end, why do I need Him?
Just as my human intervention to speed up the ripening process of an avocado doesn’t work, neither does my human intervention to rush God’s timing with my ripening. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. God is NEVER in a hurry, but always on time.
There’s a Reason
The messy middle, the journey of life, the ripening process is often painful. But it’s during that time that God is at work, accomplishing so much in us. Change can be difficult and transformation downright uncomfortable. God uses our circumstances to teach us important lessons like Waiting, Delegating, Trusting an Unseen God, Being Still, Surrendering. Ironically from the perspective of a control freak, these lessons appear to be passive. NOT TRUE. It takes great energy, discipline and tenacity to be still, to trust an unseen God, to wait, to surrender. God has divine purpose in the process.
When I get fidgety and anxious and desperate to direct my outcome, I will think about the deliciousness of that perfectly ripe avocado.
BUT, there is GOOD NEWS. There may be surprises ahead, good surprises and probably more unwelcome surprises too. But there is comfort in knowing that Gods got them too. The victory has been won. Blessed Assurance.
Imagine Jesus seeing the sneak peak of His life’s ending. He didn’t need a sneak peak. He already knew. And I’m thinking He would rather not have known. Can you imagine? But because Jesus relinquished control to the Father, we have victory. Thy will be done. It is finished.
One of the sweetest gifts from God is “the full assurance of faith”. Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings…” Assurance is a precious thing, a source of deep peace and God wants us to have it.
But like most things in the Christian life, assurance is something that doesn’t float down from the heavens. It is cultivated and grows deeper and stronger over time. It is a gift that God gives to us forged through the fire. In other words, God’s way of growing the sweet gift of assurance in us is through difficult circumstances. Trials are the way that faith is proven, refined, and strengthened. James 1: 2,3 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness”
So yes…the middle may continue to be messy, the refining stage difficult, the ripening process long, BUT… God’s word has given us all access to the final page of His book. I’ve read it. And I know how His story ends. God wins. And because I trust Him and know Him, I win too. And live happily ever after, eternally. That, is the big red bow we can all look forward to. It will be worth it. God promises.
Verse 3 of my favorite hymn Amazing Grace…
Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come; His grace has brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.