When Noah let out a scream, he surprised us all. He was standing in our backyard at the top of a small hill; no one was around him, he hadn’t fallen, all seemed normal in his immediate environment. “I’ve been shot!”, he shouted. And the rest of us unknowing loiterers wondered what on earth he was talking about. I mean, sure, he was standing about fifteen paces away from his grandfather, and his grandfather did happen to be shooting the boys bb gun at the time, but the possibility of those two facts adding up was nil to void…right? I mean, the target at which my father was shooting was a good 30 feet in front of him and Noah was standing behind my father, uphill from him no less. What are the chances that the bb could have reached Noah?
I ran over to my little guy (8 at the time) to try to calm him and realized when he lifted his shirt to reveal a perfectly bb-sized red mark on his stomach that he had in fact been shot. Against all odds, the bb ricocheted off the intended target and made its way uphill and into the stomach of Mr innocent bystander standing off to what he thought was safety. Myself, his older brother, my mother and my father-turned-assailant, albeit unintentional, were simply shocked. While trying to process the inevitability of the situation, each one of us was slowly overcome with laughter and spent the next several minutes floundering between comforting this sweet child of mine and allowing the audacity of the scene to take hold.
One might call this happenstance unbelievable, crazy or, at the very least, unexpected. I certainly didn’t wake up that morning considering the possibility that my little guy would be hit with a bb. For anyone with small children in school, you might have a renewed understanding of the word, “unexpected.” Among the other trendy, re-purposed vocabulary used these days by teachers and therapists, I find the word unexpected attached to the more unfavorable behavior exhibited by students. It has replaced more commonly accepted words like, bad, naughty, annoying or just plain not ok. It limits the word to that which creates a poor or bad outcome. For example, one day at speech therapy, Mary walked over and turned off the lights. Her therapist calmly said, “Mary, that was unexpected!” I didn’t feel like she had the same effect that I did when I ran over to her, grabbed her hand away from the light and shouted, “No!”, but I digress; to each his own.
Amid these meandering ponderings, I do believe I have stumbled upon a point. When at the start of a new year, I always find myself struggling with the unknown. My anxiety bubbles up a bit and I become overwhelmed with the immense possibilities that lay before me in the next 365 day period. What will the year be like? How can I best prepare for what lies ahead? Will any of my children be accidentally shot with a bb gun by their loving grandfather?
What I wouldn’t do for a blue print, a detailed memo, a 2017 calendar that clearly outlined each day-anything to help me plan, prepare, be ready for whatever it is I need to be ready for. If I am to be brutally honest with myself, the truth is, I am frightened of the unexpected. Further thought leads me to realize that the unexpected is something that lives in the future, so it must be the future that I am fearful of. And what does God say about the future? In essence, He tells me it doesn’t belong to me. In fact, He tells us that He can’t be with us in the past or the future, only in the here and now, for the present is all that is promised us. So why is it so hard for me to truly be in the present? Again, it brings me back to my fear of the unexpected that could be coming around the corner at any moment. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle, but the moment I see God in the midst of all of it, life makes sense again. And that is my quest for 2017; to be present, to pray for comfort in the unexpected, to accept it for what it is and to always find God in the moment.
Of course the “unexpected” has a big range. It can be the coffee cup that spills all over the counter or the child that calls from school needing stitches after an accident in science lab. It can be the child throwing up in the car three minutes into a five-hour ride or news of a serious sickness of a family member. The unexpected can have personal implications or global implications.
On the flip side, despite the negativity now associated with the word, the unexpected can also be happy and joyous; a phone call from a friend you haven’t connected with in a while or a beautiful ring your husband hid in what you thought was a simple new coffee mug. It could be test results showing all is well or the simple compliment that takes you by surprise.
Good or bad, big or small, the “unexpected” is exactly that. It is nothing we can plan for, nothing we can control. I often think about my efforts to control life in comparison to the way I pack for a trip. You’ll find me the week before any trip in the travel-size aisle tossing items into my cart that are sure to solve any and all problems, or “unexpecteds”, that may arise. Dry skin? Got the cream. Upset stomach? Got the Pepto. Not near a sink? Got the Purell. Hangnail? A travel pair of nail clippers makes perfect sense. Of course I don’t normally use any of it, but the peace of mind I feel in being prepared is worth every penny.
While you may not be able to buy it in the travel-size aisle, there is a tried and true remedy for every unexpected that life may bring. By finding God in all the questions, we can be free to hand all the fear that surrounds the unknown over to the One that has it all under control. And the beautiful thing is we also open ourselves up to receiving all the good and wonderful “unexpected” that God has planned for us. Without that trust, without that friendship, we never know what we are missing out on. With that trust and with that friendship we can be sure the “unexpected” will be defined in His terms and not by our own humanly imperfect reactions.
It’s a lesson I have to learn over and over again. I give up control and hand over my fear, then slowly find myself trying to regain control and end up wondering why on earth I’m feeling so frightened and anxious. If I happen to master this goal of mine for even a few days this year, I’ll be happy. I’m a constant work-in-progress and I’m forever grateful that God remains patient and understanding.
Funny enough, an “unexpected” has been taking place over the past week as I’ve been struggling to finish this post. My imperfect plan was to be done last Friday. I thought, for the most part, my writing was complete. I fully expected to spend a bit more time wrapping things up and be ready to post for Friday morning. Try as I might however, I just couldn’t seem to bring all my thoughts together into what I felt was an appropriate conclusion. Something was missing but I couldn’t figure out what so, quite unexpectedly, my own plan fell apart and I resigned myself to the fact that God had more to say and I needed to be patient and listen (never an easy thing for me).
Just yesterday I was listening to one of my new favorite Christian singers by the name of Francesca Battistelli. I’ve enjoyed her album many times before, but yesterday one song, or more specifically, one phrase stuck out to me. The song is titled, “Find Rest”. The particular line that really caught my attention is, “nothing catches Him by surprise”. “That’s it”, I thought. That’s what I’ve been missing. I love it. Such a simple truth and one that I hope to absorb as the year goes on. There is nothing “unexpected” in God’s eyes. He knows it all, plans for it all and has got it all under control. And in that truth we can all find rest. I get it God, thank you. 2017, let’s do this…