This past weekend our church held the annual Women’s Retreat – the theme this year was “Everyday Surprises.” According to Google’s definition of the word ‘surprise,’ as a noun it means an unexpected or astonishing event, fact or thing. It can also be a verb, something unexpected that causes someone to feel astonishment or shock. Synonyms of surprise include: amaze, startle, stun and stagger.
Participants of the retreat share ways in which they have experienced both good and bad surprises and we study Scripture and the ways that Jesus’ followers were surprised during HIS ministry. We go through the events of the weekend keeping our eyes and ears open to surprise, trying to recognize and make time to notice the unexpected ways God enters in to our experience.
Looking back on my grief journey I recall the positive and negative surprises that I experienced and the effects they all had on my journey.
- My husband Chris’ death was sudden, so obviously I was stunned by the news.
- I was surprised when I was escorted into a room with a sign that said, “Quiet Room,” not knowing why I was there. Once I heard the news it was anything but quiet.
- When my husband’s co-worker reacted by punching a hole in the wall of that room, I was startled.
- Even though I grew up in the church, I was surprised by my inability to see God or feel HIS presence.
- Some of the people we were the closest to before my husband’s death are people I am distant to now – that’s a shock.
- I was surprised by the inability of friends and family to know that hugs are the answer and that clichés don’t work to bring comfort.
- I received a letter a few weeks after my husband’s death that on Valentine’s Day (the day after his death) some of his organs had been transplanted and the recipients were doing well – an amazing surprise.
- People I had never met came to pay respects to our family at Chris’ funeral and I was in awe of the number of supporters we had.
- I found out that even with a broken heart, we can mend and become whole once again.
- I was surprised that so many others, who had lost a loved one, knew what to do for me and my son and they were not afraid to enter into my darkness.
- The most astonishing surprise came when the God who I had abandoned, never gave up on me. HE brought a widower and his young daughter into my life and I was given a new family.
Sometimes the lines blur between what you consider positive and negative surprises, but the real challenge is to stay alert. To see, hear and feel ways in which our astonishing God will surprise you and sustain you during your best and worst times.
How have you been surprised?