Sudden. Unexpected

Have you ever received that unwelcome, unexpected call that changed your life?

Or gotten the news you most feared, but never allowed yourself to believe would really happen to you? Have you ever arranged your life in perfect order only to have something out of your control shake it all to the ground? So often we are blind-sided. We didn’t see it coming. Should we have seen it coming? Sometimes, but sometimes not.

When I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, a little bird had taken up residence, and laid her eggs in our backyard grill. It was a very clever spot for the bird, but a very inconvenient one for me. I love hamburgers, hot dogs, and grilled chicken. Grill cooking hardly feels like cooking at all.

But being an animal lover, I put the kibosh on all outdoor cooking until the birds were through with our grill. One, two, three weeks went by. Still no baby birds. Just five tiny white eggs with little brown speckles on them. I’m no bird expert, but I began to question if these eggs were going to hatch at all. I decided to give it one more week. Maybe these were slow hatchers.

I was going to say slow cookers, but considering where the nest was, I thought that would be in poor taste.

Every couple of days I would lift the grill lid and peer inside, and every day the mother bird would fly out, and leave the five eggs un-hatched inside. I was pretty certain that the eggs were duds, and were not going to hatch no matter how long momma bird sat there. Still, I didn’t want to have the blood of five baby birds on my hands, so I did a little research. That’s when I found out the bird living in my grill was a Carolina wren. I also learned the eggs were overdue to hatch by two weeks. Hmm.

I felt sure that the momma bird would soon figure out she’d been sitting far too long and give it up, but no. Every day I would check the grill, and every day there she was sitting, steadfastly, on her eggs. I tried to reason with her and tell her it was no use, but she wouldn’t listen. This was her task in life and she was committed. I had to admire her determination, but knowing it was all in vain, I felt sorry for her. I also felt sorry for me. I wanted a cheeseburger.

I gave it a few more days just to be sure, and finally removed the nest still holding the five eggs, from the grill. I know in the end I was doing us both a favor, but I still felt bad about it. I knew she would fly back to find her nest and find her eggs gone. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. She would have to fly in a new direction and find another purpose for her life. Her nest became my son’s kindergarten Show ‘n Tell.

Does that sound familiar? Has that happened to you before?

I’m not asking if you’ve built a nest and laid some eggs. I’m asking if you have ever been blind-sided. Have you ever been heading in one direction confident this is the right way for you, only to have something happen completely out of your control to change the course of your life? I’m not really talking about winning the lottery. Although I imagine that would surely change your life.

Instead, your husband suddenly says he doesn’t love you anymore. The medical tests came back positive after all. Your company is downsizing, and you find yourself without a job or a 401K. You lose your pregnancy to a miscarriage. Sudden. Unexpected. Change. It’s like you’re walking along and everything is fine when suddenly the sidewalk disappears from under you. You make like Wiley Coyote and hang there, suspended in midair; surprised at what just happened, but then gravity takes over and down you go. Love that gravity.

You find that you are dazed, stunned even. You think, “Wasn’t my life great just a minute ago? I’m pretty sure that was me.”

Why does it feel like the world is turned upside down? Things or people you counted on are no longer there for you. The future you thought was yours is now history. It was all so sudden, and completely out of your control. This change in your status was totally unexpected. Well, it was totally unexpected by you.

The Bible teaches that nothing comes to us without first going through God the Father. So while we were not expecting this life altering experience, He was. Nothing takes our Heavenly Father by surprise. Take the Apostle Paul for example. Before he was Paul the author of much of the New Testament, he was Saul the Christian persecutor. Saul suddenly found the sidewalk had disappeared from beneath his feet one day, too. Paul’s sudden life-altering event is recorded for us in Acts, chapter nine.

Paul, or rather Saul, had a great life. He was a Jew’s Jew.

He was a man with a mission. He knew what he was about. His life had purpose: direction. He was happily ridding the country of those who were following “the Way”. Persecuting and killing Christians was his primary purpose in life. It brought him joy and satisfaction right up to the day he was blindsided and his life was forever changed. On the road to Damascus, to bully even more followers of Christ, Saul was struck blind. He was literally blinded by the light. (For a moment lyrics from the Manfred Mann’s Earth Band bounce around in my head.)

In that moment Saul experienced earth shattering, unexpected, sudden life change. In order to stop Saul right in his tracks and get his attention, God used a blinding light to extinguish Saul’s ability to see. You cannot persecute what you cannot find. God was not only interested in stopping the intended persecution of the Damascus Christians; He was interested in using Saul for His own agenda. Drastic times call sometimes for drastic measures.

We serve a drastic God.

Do you doubt this? Remember Sodom and Gomorrah? Noah and the flood? Jesus? Pentecost? Oh yes, we serve a drastic God all right. Throughout history God has used extreme measures when needed to get someone’s attention. Why would we think He has stopped doing that? Some of us just don’t respond any other way. We are so determined to continue down a path of destruction that the only way for our course to be changed is for God to get drastic.

Nothing was going to convince that little bird in my grill that her eggs were not going to produce baby birds for her to nurture. Would she have sat on them all summer? I’m not sure, but it was a possibility. Her motives were pure, but they did not change reality. Those eggs were not going to hatch, and if I was going to enjoy the benefits of my grill I had to take drastic measures. I believe God would rather not take drastic measures too, but He will do whatever is necessary to ensure that His will be done in us.

It is in those drastic, life-changing moments that we feel most out of control of our lives.

The nice, neat story we’ve narrated for ourselves receives an unexpected plot change that we didn’t author. It’s what sells suspense novels, but we’re not so crazy about it when we are the main character. When we feel most out of control we must remember that God is not. Think about it. The God of the universe has His hand on the very things that are causing our sudden life changing events. What a great comfort this should bring to us. Instead of fighting to regain control of the story, we should rest and wait for Him to author the next chapter.

I can’t guarantee many things, but I can guarantee that at some point in your life, drastic, unexpected change is coming.

Maybe it has already and you are struggling with what to do now. Well I can say with some authority that panic is never a good choice. I cannot come up with any time that panic served any person well. As I watched my Carolina wren return to the empty grill, she paused only for a moment before taking off to face the rest of her life. There was no obvious bird-freaking going on. As far as I know she didn’t return to my grill ever again. I was proud of her for handling it so well.

We can learn a lot from a little brown bird. When we are faced with sudden, unexpected life change we are also faced with a choice. We can allow panic to set in and collapse under the pressure we face, or we can rest in the knowledge that God is still God and He is still the best author of our lives. We may not know what the next chapter of our lives will bring, but we can find strength in the knowledge that God knows, and is working it all out for our good.

So what do you think?

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