I love surprises! Well, let me clarify…I love good surprises!! I don’t like being caught off guard, unless it’s for a happy celebration – a special birthday gathering, a well-kept anniversary plan or unanticipated time with a dear friend. These are precious and memorable occasions – the best kinds of surprises!
What I don’t like are the surprises in life that aren’t as celebratory – an unexpected health issue, an unplanned financial burden or an unforeseen distance chosen by a loved one. I’m certain we can all agree these kind of surprises aren’t easy, energizing or euphoric. They’re memorable, but not in the ways we’d like.
What truly amazes me about surprises is that God has never had one. While we can be blind-sided and not see things coming, nothing has ever surprised God. Nothing. He sees it all, and He uses it all for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He goes before us and remains with us (Deuteronomy 31:8). There’s no trouble He doesn’t foresee and no valley He won’t sit in with us…and He’ll be there, too, when we see the redemption. (Actually, He’ll be right in the middle of it.)
As a little girl, I was the very definition of a “Daddy’s girl.” I worshipped the ground my father walked on. He was my hero – my superhero, actually. He was handsome, strong, athletic, funny, charming, smart and a good dancer, too. My little girl heart belonged to him, and I thought he could do no wrong. Until he did. But even then, he reassured me, and I forgave him quickly. I still hear his voice so clearly telling me, “Daddy loves you.” He always said it that way, and I believed him.
Then, one day he left. (Surprise!) And he never came back.
I thought for sure he would. He didn’t. I was certain he was somewhere close-by, spying on me to keep up with my life. He wasn’t, and he didn’t. I hoped I could muster the strength to not let the loss affect me. I couldn’t.
But, God… (these are my VERY favorite two words in scripture, because they’re almost always followed by glorious demonstrations of His love!)
God gave me grandparents who were willing to adjust (surprise, here we are!) their independent lives to accommodate us and give us a home. He gave me friends who were going through relatable circumstances to comfort and strengthen me. And, in time (the exact right time) He brought a new Dad into my life, who (surprise!) adopted me as his own. Only God could have orchestrated every detail, each timing and all the circumstances to have these things play out the way they did. For my good.
I was thrilled to be close to my Dad during my teen years. It might be when girls benefit most from a strong relationship with a male figure. We shared so much laughter, and we did a great job of making up for lost time in each other’s lives. Most of my best memories from my teens and twenties include him (very likely intertwined with a hilarious story!) I loved him so much, I put him on a pedestal and made him the superhero of my young adult life.
And then I moved…
After getting married and having two children in my thirties, I moved from Cincinnati to Dallas to kick off my forties. It was the right move for our family for multiple reasons we had prayed about, processed and agreed upon. While our immediate family was excited about the move, my extended family wasn’t, most especially my Dad. It was a painful loss for him, and he wanted to block the pain, so distance became his medicine. He cast aside our history and made himself a stranger in an effort to self-protect. (Such a painful surprise.)
Here I was in a new city, without all the connections, network and support I was so used to, and my Dad, who I adored so much, built a wall between us. It was devastating, and I crumbled beneath the weight of loneliness and isolation.
But, God… (yes, again…and again, and again!)
God used this season to lift a (surprising!) veil from my eyes. It the midst of my sorrow, He drew me in. He comforted and strengthened me. He assured me I wasn’t really alone. He cleared a pathway to a church and small group. He brought the dearest friends to my doorstep (literally, they came to my home for a new Bible study!) And more than anything, He taught me that He alone will never disappoint; He alone will never fail. He alone is worthy of worship and glory. He alone is the real superhero.
While I was struggling in the darkness and couldn’t see my way out, God showed up and taught me one of the greatest lessons of my life: when we are in close relationship with the Lord, we won’t be so surprised by His goodness. It’s who He is and what He does. He wants us to have full lives (John 10:10) and we can have expectant hope in Him (versus people or “ideal” circumstances.)
When God picked me up from my knees in Dallas, not only did He show up and lift me, He continued to lavish me and fill my broken heart. I never realized what a detriment it was that I had created “superheroes” in my life. I never saw how that retracted from my marriage, and I never fathomed that it also stole space in my heart from God. My Dad’s distance broke my heart, but God responded with so much more of Himself and so much more of my husband too. He filled my empty spaces to overflowing!
Before I end this blog post, it’s worth noting that my Dad passed away this past year. Miraculously timed, in the final months of my Dad’s life, God provided an opening for us to share some time together and exchange grace, love and understanding; healing what had been broken, bridging what had been detached, and assuring me I’ll see him again in heaven.
He redeemed. He restored. He used each and every moment for good along the way.
I’m actually not surprised. And neither is God. Hallelujah!
Will you pray with me? Lord, God, we’re so thankful that You go before us and that You see things, know things and can do things we cannot. Help us to trust you when life unfolds in ways we don’t expect. Draw us close, Lord, and help us to receive your strength, comfort and assurances, for you are steady and never surprised! We glorify you now, Lord and ask that you help us to do that in our daily lives. May we see that You are the only “superhero” we need. Only You can truly save, and we pray that you bring us to the place that allows that to happen, through Jesus and in His name, Amen.