I grew up in a predictable world. It was “Mayberry”, complete with sidewalk games, little league baseball, and town parades. Everyone was nice.
My dad got the 5:40 commuter train home to our little town from Chicago every night. Each day ended with my loving, family gathered around the dinner table joining hands to pray before eating. We went to church. We did the “right” things and we were “blessed”.God was predictable. He was safe.
In my world “good” things happened to “good” people. Trust came easy.
It was hard for me to relate to the 99% of the world who lived with chronic pain, and hard for them to comprehend the “It’s a Wonderful Life” snow globe I lived in.
All this delightful predictability made my crash all the more dramatic. When, in middle age I experienced betrayal, disappointment, & injustice, it felt like a nuclear bomb had gone off and I was left wandering around in the post-apocolyptic ash. For the first time I was overwhelmed with feelings of uncertainty, shame, confusion, and anger.
God was no longer predictable. Because the world was not what I thought it was, maybe God not who I thought HE was.
C.S. Lewis wrote of Aslan, the “God figure” of Narnia, “He’s not safe, but he’s good.”
He steps into our pain and redeems our brokenness, but it seems like it’s never the way we imagine. Or even the way we’d choose.
The problem is that we tend to equate “good” with “comfortable”. We equate “blessed” with “fairy tale happily ever-after-right-now”.
I wanted God to swoop in like a super-hero and repair all the damage to my world when things went to hell. If I’m honest, it’s what I expected for a long time. It was only when I accepted that God was not going to follow my timeline or diagrams that I was open to knowing Him in a new and deeper way. He was with me, He was good, and He was changing me, but there was no quick magic.
There have been several times of crisis in my life when I’ve literally cried out to God, “You’re not who I thought you were!”
And maybe that’s a good thing.
When Jesus broke into our brokenness 2,000 years ago, light splitting our darkness like a laser beam, He was totally unpredictable. He had been silent for 400 years. He didn’t show up “army strong”, or Prince Charles regal, or bullhorn loud.
He came to a highly unlikely place, through an unlikely young woman, using an unlikely strategy to save the world from sin.
Although the prophets had given many “heads ups”, we didn’t see it. To us, He was a surprise – nothing like we imagined. And this is the challenge of Christmas.
Jesus is not who we thought He’d be.
The grace of Jesus is unpredictable. It’s like a + b = kazoos. It doesn’t feel safe because we can’t control it. What kind of plan is it to arrive small, poor, and grungy for Pete’s sake?!
It’s certainly not OUR plan. It’s not neat and tidy or comfortable. It doesn’t make “sense” that Jesus would come to love and die for us without us doing anything, but it makes even less sense when we think about Him being crazy in love with those “other” people…you know…the really sinful ones. The whole thing is just so…unpredictable!
Jesus entered our broken world with His light and goodness 2,000 years ago, and offers to enter in still today, but we have to welcome Him as is. As God. A surprising God who doesn’t always fit our expectations.
I read this line and it is my prayer for today: “In place of my faithless need to control, give me a watchful heart full of expectation and wonder.” Amen.