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The God of Surprises


Here I sit again, on my couch, writing in a little series of starts and stops. As I type, a tiny brown-eyed three month old sleeps at my elbow. The noisy breathing that she was born with became the soundtrack of my life when we took her in three weeks ago; in fact, dotted among the many kid activities scribbled onto my calendar are doctors’ appointments for this little one who isn’t big enough to even begin registering on the growth charts yet. She is a charming baby, mesmerizing most everyone who meets her with her big smiles and her love of conversation. When she starts talking one of these days, I predict she will fill the empty air with all kinds of observations and ideas. She’s a social baby. She’s too precious to even really describe with mere words.

I find myself playing a surprising role in her life. Surprising may not be the word: shocking feels more accurate. Three weeks ago, the two of us had no idea the other existed. I was in an interesting place in my life—that place where kids get older and life suddenly feels strangely easy. Motherhood shifts and changes, and moms have no choice but to ride each wave of change as it comes, accepting all of the phases, adjusting to new ways of relating to our kids, relating to our husbands, relating to the world. I was in a comfortable place.

I learned that this little one’s mother was going to prison on a Tuesday night at 10:30. By the next evening we had a baby living under our roof for the first time in almost ten years. This is the kind of adventure that sort of tumbles into your world without warning, and I wondered if I could remember how this goes, if the skills I had honed with my own children would come back to me. Surprise: they did. I feel like I’m 27 year old me, waking up at night with an infant, interpreting the cries, changing the diapers, making the bottles. Only I’m 44 year old me with a 17 year old and gray hair. And that is quite a different story.

One of my favorite things about knowing the Lord is the way He surprises me. I don’t know if we often think about God as surprising. We think of Him as mysterious maybe, somewhat enigmatic. But the truth is that the element of surprise is one of God’s specialties. In this moment of my life I feel like I can begin to identify with Moses at the burning bush (“Surprise, Moses! I choose you!”), Paul on the Damascus Road (“Surprise, Paul! I choose you!”), or Abraham standing under a blanket of stars (“Surprise, Abraham! I choose you!”). But maybe I most identify with Sarah in that moment when she was almost 100 and God said, “Surprise, Sarah! You’re getting a baby!” Do you remember what she did when she heard that? She laughed. She laughed out loud at such a notion. Then she denied laughing, but we all know she did, because that’s what you do sometimes when you are over the hill and God hands you a newborn. Trust me. It is.