Three Surprises –
In a recent conversation that included a range of topics including heaven, I told a friend what had been said to me many years ago. “There will be three surprises when we get to heaven. People will be surprised who made it. People will be surprised who didn’t make it. Lastly, people will be surprised we made it!” It’s a humorous yet true statement about the afterlife and Heaven’s membership. There will be surprises aplenty so don’t be so convinced in your beliefs, ability, and acceptability that you lose the mystery of a God who knows more than you, sees more than you, and is bigger than you can imagine. Heaven mirrors God’s nature and love not ours.
Wisdom teaches us that our ways are not God’s ways, our thoughts are not God’s thoughts. In the Benedictine tradition, we are to keep our; “eyes tilted toward the ground.” We are to keep our sin and shortcomings always in front of us. Not as a burden to bear but a constant reminder of God’s goodness and a reason to rejoice.
Several years ago I was leading a Bible study and we were talking about God’s grace. I made the statement; “Without God, no matter what we said or did, we had no true goodness or love.” A man in our group spoke up and asked; “If we don’t have anything worth redeeming why does God love us?” “That,’ I answered, ‘is why they call it grace.”
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Earlier today, on the way home from a meeting, I dropped by a store and picked up flowers, a card and a small gift for Valentine’s day. I was going to hide them and then, before Beth got up in the morning, put them on the kitchen counter. She was going to be surprised and happy and this brings me great joy. I arrived home and put everything on the counter. I fixed my lunch and sat down. Not long after there was a knock on the front door. I went to see who and it was Beth. She had gotten off work early today and as she came inside I remembered the flowers, card, and gift on the counter. “Don’t look on the counter!” I yelled, knowing it was too late. Her surprise of coming home early ruined my planned surprise for tomorrow.
Life is full of well…surprises. For a while, I was irritated things didn’t work out the way I anticipated but it occurred to me that its hard to give a gift of love with frustration in your heart. I shook it off and told her; “Happy Valentines Day!”
She did say she wouldn’t open the card until tomorrow.
Today I was stuck somewhere I didn’t want to be, doing something I didn’t want to do for over 6-hours! A quarter of my day was spent enduring, trying to stay calm, doing much breathing exercises and practicing stillness.
This wasn’t my plan for this day. I had it all laid out and then boom! From out of nowhere, life took a hard turn and I had no choice but to follow. There are moments and seasons in life when you’re given one of two or more choices. This wasn’t available to me today. I walked a 6-hour path of misery, by sitting in an uncomfortable room and an uncomfortable chair, and thankfully came out on the other side.
Life is nothing if not unpredictable. Especially when you have everything scheduled and coordinated. It’s interesting how life’s “surprises” continue to shock. Perhaps one day they won’t surprise us anymore. Maybe we’ll learn the lesson of living in the moment, no expectations and accept everything that comes with an open hand and spirit.
Ready or Not –
Tuesday afternoon I pulled into the driveway and immediately realized what I had forgotten. There was a bug control company’s truck sitting there with a bug person spraying the outside of the house. My first thought was not the way the house looked on the outside but on the inside. The bathroom remodel was completed a week and a half ago but we are still trying to get things back in their proper place. As a result, the house is quite messy. It was too late to cancel and as soon as I headed into the house the bug person followed so there was no time to straighten up anything! “Oh well,’ I thought, ‘I’m sure they’ve seen worse.” I took the dog outside as they sprayed the inside and finished up. “Thanks and see you next time,” they said, got in their truck and pulled away.
It was an uncomfortable but important reminder of life’s unpredictability. Even when our plans seem permanent, perfectly laid out, organized, and ready for anything life has a way of showing us how little control we have over everything. Life’s full of surprises, some good and some not so good, some which we can get over quickly, others that pull us in a direction we don’t want to go to places we’d rather not be altering it permanently.
Life, like the bug person on Tuesday afternoon; ready or not, here it comes.
Rest and Suffering –
Yesterday afternoon, on my way back from an out-of-town meeting, I passed a delivery truck. Its hood was up, flashers on, obviously broke down and not going anywhere. What caught my attention was the driver. He was laying down in a shady spot, one arm for a pillow and the other holding a cellphone and talking. He wasn’t nervously pacing, angrily kicking tires, yelling into the phone. If he could’ve fixed the truck I am sure he would have. If there was a way to deliver his goods he would’ve completed his goals for the day. Instead, he was resting because there wasn’t anything else to do but wait.
I struggle following this man’s example. I like rhythm, order, control. I don’t like surprises, detours, or delays. There is certainly a part of that which comes from having a Severe Anxiety Disorder. Mapping out the day so it can be more easily managed is part of my therapy. However, I also believe it’s very human to want control, to get things done in a timely manner, to feel like our lives are not always a random gathering of happenstance.
Wisdom teaches us that the distance between acceptance of what happens every moment and our expectation of what should happen every moment is where suffering is found. Knowing how to rest in the unplanned, perhaps even unwanted, experiences of life is one of the toughest and most valuable lessons we can learn.