Some of it is good and lovely—like making a new friend when you didn’t expect to, moments when everything comes together, an out-of-the-blue accolade, a door held open, cool breezes on a summer day, watching love heal and bring-together where no life seemed possible.
And some of it comes in the form of troubles. Those moments when we collide into injustice, loss, betrayal, suffering, pain, unfairness, sorrow.
Sometimes, those moments are small, a butterfly kiss of joy or an irritating nettle sting. Sometimes the moments are bigger, something akin to rounding a bend and encountering a breathtaking landscape or, conversely, getting the air knocked out of your lungs as you smack into a brick wall you could never have known was there. Others are profoundly more—the knee-bending, overwhelming power of an encounter with Love or the crushing, draining force of disease and death.
All of these weave through life. And I’ve learned to expect the unexpected, a kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop while expectantly anticipating what glory God will make of it all, good and troubled alike. My husband shakes his head and laughs when I try to describe the way I walk through life: A kind of life-like optimism. Or joyful pragmatism. Hopeful realism?
But even though I know this, I am still, astonishingly, surprised when I encounter the unexpected.
Not too long ago, a shoe dropped, and I ran into one of those brick walls. On a beautiful day of blue skies, I rounded a corner and smacked right into it. As far as walls go, it wasn’t dire. Eventually, everything wobbled back. But it did stink of injustice and wrong-ness. It wasn’t fair. And, well, running into brick walls hurts. Even those that are less than dire.
But even as the stun and daze still lingered, again, amazingly, I was surprised.
I started to notice other things. Most of them were smaller things—like the huge butterfly that literally kissed my cheek as I took the trash outside and seconds later the toad that made me jump out of my skin beside the mailbox. Which is probably why I noticed the tortoise hiding under the bush by the front the door, which preoccupied me and my kids for who-knows-how-long. A cascade of brief, unsettling sensations of encountering Other-ness. Moments like others I’ve encountered before in the wind, bugs or armadillos and spiders. Moments that shock me a bit, moments of the strange, beautiful and extraordinary I’d forgotten. Moments that feel as if I’ve encountered a rip or tear in the world, that remind me of the bigger, vaster, unexpected one I inhabit. Ultimately, these are moments that remind me of God, because as I remember the exquisite, strange and stunning world in which I walk I also remember who I am, who God is and the reality of the Land in which I really live.
There were larger moments, too. Sudden, breath-taking moments of core-shaking love when I looked at the freckles on my son’s nose, watched my daughter laugh, or listened to the confident prayers of my husband.
It amazes me, these moments of strange, exquisite beauty. Not because they exist alongside the stinging nettles and brick walls, but because they are so much more powerful. In those moments, I’m amazed darkness exists at all. They are, I guess, moments of Kingdom-come within Kingdom-coming, moments where the end of the Story breaks through to the middle.
I don’t know why I’m always surprised. Perhaps I shouldn’t be. But I am.