We drove west this evening into the sunset. The sky was palest robin's egg blue and the clouds gilt edged, creamy vanilla. The humble farmers' fields in the distance looked as though they were covered in cloth of gold as their snowy coverings reflected back the setting sun.
I pondered a train of thought that had started earlier in the day about the times that God did things that seemed counterintuitive. With the benefit of hindsight it is easy to see humour in people's responses. I read one of them this morning:
A disciple named Ananias was told in a vision to go to a house on Straight Street, and pray for a man from Tarsus named Saul, who had lost his sight. I smile whenever I read Ananias's response.
Acts 9:13-14 (New International Version)
13"Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."
The "pharisee of pharisees," the least likely to be chosen for the task of reaching the Gentiles, was the very one God chose.
I also love the passage in Luke, describing two disciples walking to the town of Emmaus after the crucifixion. They are joined by Jesus, whom they do not immediately recognize. This is some of the interchange that took place.
Luke 24:17-19 (New International Version)
17 He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?"
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?"
19"What things?" he asked.
"Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem?" Can you imagine how Jesus must have been smiling?
I thought too, of the account of Lazarus's death. How puzzling that Jesus took so much time to go to the bedside of his sick friend-- seemingly arriving too late.
John 11:32 (New International Version)
32When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
Jesus must have been anticipating what was to happen next--the raising from the dead of Lazarus. "Where have you put him?" he asked. And no one could have guessed why.
As we drove back later, Paul mused out loud, "I often wonder if my dad felt cheated."
"What?" I asked, surprised.
"Well, he was only 62 when he died of cancer, 23 years ago. I'm nearly 62 and I wonder if he didn't feel like he had a lot more living to do."
I didn't know what to say, but I wondered if those times--the times when we think God didn't hear, or got the answer wrong, aren't the times when God gave the best surprise of all...
This morning we sang again, that beautiful song, by Chris Tomlin, I Will Rise:
And I Will Rise
when he calls my name
No more sorrow,
No more pain
I Will Rise,
on Eagle's wings
Before my God fall on my kness,
I Will Rise