I prefer things to be ordered, make sense and be (this is a non-negotiable) predictable. As a Type A, under-caffeinated, prematurely graying toddler mom, the unexpected is not what I welcome. Even though I live with it and its stinky, whiny reality every day.
I spent a good majority of my first couple decades trying to live inside the predictable. Even if that predictable was messy, self-destructive and smelled of rotting garbage. I wanted things to stay in a safe place where I could manage them. Even my belief in an impossible-making-possible God, I wanted wrapped up so I could contain it. Watch it. Keep it where I could believe from the comfort of my small life boat. Jesus sleeping while I knitted, scrolled through my news feed or painted my nails. Easy faith.
Becoming a mother blew all of this out of the water.
In my early 20s, I had such baby fever that I was almost salivating when I saw a baby in public. I recall the physical pain I felt, this gaping hole, where I thought a man and babies had to be. I didn’t know what heartache was until I felt this pain of not having. Like barbed wire around my heart, imprisoned by singleness, loneliness, emptiness. Afraid that I’d always eat cereal for supper if I felt like or have a bathroom drawer with only a single tube of toothpaste in it because there was always room to spread out.
I’d always prayed to be a wife and mother, but by the time I reached my early 30s and I was still living alone with my pets and sleeping in on the weekends, I didn’t think this life was for me. And I was sort of getting used to it. I began to let these dreams die one-by-one like my dropping ovaries.
Until (there is always an “until”) God showed up: a new unexpected turn that spun my life around like a Cirque du Soleil performer on an aerial swing.
What happened? I met my husband, got married a couple years later, had babies (yes, two at once!) and in quick succession, a list of other equally incredible, equally hard and unexpected things happened.
What the Book of Matthew Says About the Unexpected
This past year, I’ve read through the Book of Matthew in the Bible with a group of women who live in Eastern Tennessee in Bible Study Fellowship. This is a global group of women that commit to spending one year in God’s Word, studying and praying together. The title of the study was “Unexpected King.” Throughout the year, we combed through stories that shared how Jesus comes from the womb of a young virgin to the ignoble death of a criminal on a splintered cross. Unexpected from the beginning until the end.
Together, these ladies and I learned about how Jesus came from a lineage of drunkards and swindlers and even a prostitute. How he wasn’t born into worldly royalty, cloaked in gilded purple, but into a manure-caked manager and barn smelling of straw and sweat and blood. There weren’t any grand processions or motorcades. He didn’t give orders. He washed feet.
This past year, as we’ve read together, shared together, laughed and cried together; as some have welcomed grandchildren, lost loved ones, or are still waiting on what the spreading cancer cells mean, what kept coming to mind is this: how God reveals himself in an unexpected way to each of us.
The Book of Matthew shows how God likes to flip the script and turn the world on its axis. He exalts the humble and blesses the peacemakers. He feeds a multitude with a few measly loaves of crusty bread and speaks truth through stories of trees and fruit and soil and yeast. Throughout this gospel, we see evidence of more radical, surprising things: women healed, dead raised, the silent with a voice to speak again.
It is clear throughout Scripture, that God wants to not only show us a picture of His love, but an example of how to live. Seeking Him. Trusting Him. Obeying Him. Repentant. Through this journey of faith (usually messy, oftentimes hard), the unexpected is also gifted to us: a love that is unconditional. The purest of graces.
Through my study in fellowship with other women this year, I experienced a love for God, a wisdom and an excitement (Deborah!) that I hope is contagious. And also, as often happens when I’m in community of women, an important question has surfaced: What am I to do with the unexpected that God brings into my own life?
Of course, I could stay in a place of praise, worship and awe for the blessings I have and for the way that God has shown up for me in my own little bubble of a life. Hunky husband, beautiful blondish babies, oh my! Unexpected answers to prayer or unexpected peace when the ground I’m standing on falls into itself like a Southern sink hole.
Or, I could move into what I’m leaning towards is maybe the ultimate purpose of the unexpected: to be propelled outward.
The great commission.
The end of the Book of Matthew shares this:
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:16-20).
What an awe-inspiring picture of salvation the Book of Matthew shows us. Jesus being (as noted in another gospel), the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). How unexpected. How filled with mystery and grace. What a responsibility to carry this truth forward, outward. From our own unexpected bubbles of blessing and into the world.
Need a little more help embracing the unexpected? You’ll love this podcast episode: Your World Just Turned Upside Down—What Now? with Marlys Johnson Lawry – 197