Do you suppose it’s possible to surprise God? I don’t mean in the way of sneaking up on him unexpectedly, or like everybody in the world might pile into a banquet room at the Outback Steakhouse and shout “Merry Christmas” as an unsuspecting God walks in – “Gee, were you really surprised, God?” “Was I ever?! I had no idea you all cared so much!”
Neither do I mean to wonder if it’s possible to surprise God in the way of disappointing him. I’ve found comfort many times in understanding that he is not surprised by my failures. He expects them and is intent on loving me anyway. The sort of surprise I’m speaking of is hard to explain. It’s better I illustrate.
My son participated in his first competitive swim meet a few days ago. We’ve done the t-ball leagues where nobody tracks the scores, but this is the first sporting event he’s been part of where an official winner is declared. Samuel is an excellent swimmer, sound in his technique, but we hoped only that he would swim his best and follow his strokes the way he’d practiced, being that it was his first meet. His first event was freestyle – his best stroke – and it was electrifying to watch. By halfway through the lap, he had at least a full body length lead on the next fastest swimmer. I said aloud, “Look at him! He’s so FAST!” He went on to place first in all three races he swam in. I was dumbstruck. How did my little boy develop such talent? How did this incredible child start from me? This is the kind of surprise I’m wondering about.
Parents, let’s be honest, much of the time, doesn’t parenting suck? It does, doesn’t it? Or am I the only one honest enough to admit how selfish I am and how often I long for solitude and peace every once and awhile? In fact, I’m willing to confess that I often wonder what in the world I must have been thinking when I chose to subject myself to this kind of life. And then, Samuel surprises me. Both my kids surprise me quite often, actually. The swim meet was a profound one, but I am caught off-guard all the time with things my boys say and do that seem to come from someplace far outside anything I’ve anything to do with. Do you suppose we ever catch God off-guard? No, of course not. Dumb question. But aren’t we made in his image? Something of this surprise feeling must be familiar to him.
I’ve always thought that God motivates us toward certain behaviors in order to help us identify with parts of him, with glimpses of the way he experiences life. Marriage itself must be some sort of divine conspiracy – God luring me toward romance and the thrill of sexual attraction, only to find that behind these treasures lies a person who is much more alien to me than human and who’s own unyielding selfishness points itself ceaselessly at the blind selfishness within my own heart. And this divine conspiracy soon becomes a divine comedy routine, as from sexual attraction comes little mixes of mes and hers, and now my life is done. I wake up tomorrow, and 10 years have passed as a day, and I look up and see that mix of me and her doing something that blows my mind, and I think, Look at him! He is so fast!
Do you ever feel that, God? I don’t know how, but I bet you do. Otherwise, I wonder if even you might lose patience with us.