This year, my husband coordinated with his father to spend the month of December with us so that he could have long awaited knee replacement surgery. We worked through the late summer and fall to get everything ready so that we could have a quiet December and my Father-in-law could have his new bionic knee put in. Surgery went great and within 3 days, he was sent home to recoup. Things were going well so I went out of town to hang out with my cousin and girlfriends for the weekend. When I returned on Sunday, my father in law began to take a turn for the worst. John and I took him to the hospital and he was readmitted with other heart and health issues that had gone undiscovered. Those issues have now resulted in a quadruple bypass.
Just a few weeks before that, a dear friend of ours had a triple bypass. His surgery too went fine and he was up rehabbing and suddenly something went wrong……the next day and had to be resuscitated. He is now working through the additional rehabilitation needed to overcome both the surgery and issues created by the cardiac arrest. He is working hard and doing well but his family was shocked at how dangerously close they came to losing him.
The week prior to that, another friend and employee of ours experienced sudden death in her family as the result of a car accident. It was a shocking time for her and left a young girl without a daddy right at the start of the holiday season.
I’m writing about something we’ve all experienced in our lives and that is, the UNEXPECTED. Life is unpredictable and full of surprises. The picture I chose for this article depicts perfectly how unpredictability works. We’re sitting back, calmly taking life in. We never know when something will happen that will throw us off balance but we know eventually something will. Most of us would like to control our lives and have it roll according to OUR plan. It sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? John and I are both planners but no matter how much we plan, schedule or organize our lives, there is no way to anticipate what life will bring us or when. When John’s dad took a turn for the worst, we were reminded of just how out of (our) control life really is.
Why does it take the unexpected to keep us centered? Well, my thought is that it is God’s way of reminding us who is really has control. It’s easy for us to think we have life by the tail and are responsible for all that happens but the truth is, GOD’S plan is the only thing that matters and we are part of a cosmic order that He alone controls.
I recently watched the movie, “Bruce Almighty” and while it’s humor is intended to make us laugh, its message made me think. Bruce decided that he could run things better than God so God gave him power and control to do just that. Soon, his head was swimming with prayers from people all over the world. When he made it rain in one place, he created a flood in another. Saving one person from death might result in the death of a patient waiting for a chance to live with the heart from a donor. Every good thing he did had a negative effect somewhere else. When he tried to make his life perfect, somehow, his good fortune resulted in someone else’s suffering. Bruce soon found out, being God wasn’t so easy.
Life is all about overcoming hardship and finding a way to grow from it. How could we do that without loss? How can we help others who suffer if we ourselves lived in a perfectly controlled world? I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without both my victories and tragedies. If it were left up to us, who of us, would ever subject ourselves, family or friends to suffering? None of us would. Our protection and perfection would actually rob us of knowing great joy that comes only through experiencing some pain.
As people, we recognize the joy of surprises which is why we try to surprise one another when we celebrate. Christmas gifts are wrapped to create a surprise. Marriage proposals, birthday parties or even the gender of a baby are all often held in great secrecy so that the surprise can be enjoyed when the time is right. We love surprises, but we dislike the unexpected. When the unexpected comes in the form of pain, loss or tragedy, it can often create anger at God. We want him to bring the blessings, but we feel wounded and injured when we experience loss.
John and I are making a conscience effort to breath in every moment we have together with our family this season. We are pushing through exhaustion to relish the slightest joys in each day. We are not concerned with the holiday parties we’ve missed or the gifts we haven’t had a chance to buy. We recognize the true meaning of this season because the unexpected took us off balance and forced us to look at what was really important to us. I’m writing this entry to encourage those of you who like myself, are sleeping in hospital chairs or those who have experienced tragic loss. I’m writing to those of you who are living in the unexpected circumstances of life. My prayer for you is that whatever your facing you will take the time to cherish the moments of this season. I pray you will know as we do, that God doesn’t make mistakes, His will is not punishment and we are always His precious children.
I remind myself each morning that as much as I love my husband, my kids, my family and my Father-in-law, God loves them more. The simple small things that we so easily overlook when life is spinning perfectly are the very things that shape and mold our lives. Step outside your own family bubble this season and touch the life of someone who is living in the “unexpected”. The smallest gestures mean the most.