Friday, December 16, 2016

Hello, Unexpected, My Old Friend

There is only one kind of shock worse than the totally unexpected: the expected for which one has refused to prepare. 
-Mary Renault, The Charioteer

ZACCARIAS WAS in settled, comfortable place when he was suddenly faced with the unexpected (1).

What do we do when the unexpected storms into our lives? Here are a few things that have helped me.

1. Don’t Over-Think It
I try not to over-think or over-interpret what has happened [wife laughs]. Sometimes this fast-forward thinking is why God brings the unexpected in the first place. We are walking, consumed  in the dark fog in our thoughts: “He said that; she said that; he did that," over and over and we fuel our thoughts and they get worse and worse and worse. Then, “Pop!” the unexpected comes in as, seemingly, the only way to pry us out.


2. Replace Fear with Gratitude
Replace fear and insecurity with confidence and gratitude for all the life experience that God has given me. Sometimes, when the unexpected scares us, the fear is the result of deep insecurities we faced at the beginning of a relationship or a career. This may be a certain type of project at work, one you immediately react to with fear, anxiety and insecurity.

Certain things, strangely, scare us no matter how many times we face them and come through successfully. 

The epistle says “Give thanks in all circumstances”(2). When we fail to thank God in all the million little successes, we fail to acknowledge the growth in our abilities. So, unexpected events, encounters, or challenges are scarier than they should be.


Kevin, surprised by the expected.
3. Was it Really Unexpected?
Also, one might ask herself, "If I really look back on my life, and the way things have been going: Was this event really unexpected? Did I do things to bring the unexpected and unwelcome event into my life, even in a small way? Did I contribute to the slow deterioration of a relationship that is now on the brink? Am I contributing to the slow ruin of something good that I/we had? Is it possible that God is really sending me this warning signal to highlight something that maybe shouldn't be so unexpected?

4. Clinging 
Is it also possible that the unexpected is so troubling because I cling to the story of my life, as I've written it? Every event that does not correspond to that narrative is a source of pain. Jeff Edmonds writes,
This is the disadvantage of memory: it imposes a burden upon you. It makes you draw an arrow. We remember, for example, being young and powerful and we dream of returning to that state. But is this an arrow that is possible to draw? Or is it simply melancholic nostalgia for a past that cannot be recreated. If the past is too powerful, too good, it can make us reject the future and create a melancholic temperament that mourns the loss of that idyllic past (3). 
5. Offer the Anxiety
Another thing we can is to offer our fright to God, to stand before Him, pull the anxiety out from our heart and place it front of Him, saying "Here it is: I am panicking!" See what insight you might receive in that quiet quiet time. Insight can be a very comforting thing. And God can I give us that insight if we stop, slow down and take both feet out from the normal river of stimulation. 

6. Pulled from the Cocoon
Sometimes we are locked in a cocoon of self-centered behavior and self centered looking and God wants to pull us out. Think of the very subtle difference between Zaccarias' and Mary's responses to Gabriel. Because, you know, both of them express a sort of a questioning, an astonishment. But there was a very subtle, and yet key,difference: Mary says “How shall this be?” But, Zaccarias says “How shall I know this?” Mary was focused on the miracle in her life. Zaccarias was focused on the “I.” The big "I" was at the center of his question, the center of his problems, and the center of his thinking.

7. Ever-Weakening Waves
By continually facing us with the unexpected, like waves that seem to keep hitting us hard, eventually God succeeds in teaching us that the idea is to change and strengthen the inside and not worry so much about controlling outside events. As Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”(4) Eventually, if we are wise, we become stronger and stronger and the waves become smaller and weaker, or at least that's how they seem, because we are grounded in God.

________________
(1) (Luke 1:1-25)
(2) 1 Thes. 5:18
(3) Drawing the Arrow, Some Reflections on our Historicity
(4) Luke 17:21

2 comments:

Hala Samuel said...

Very insightful piece. I always say "Give it to God" and God is good always. Blessings.
Hala

NaderAlfie said...

I like that. Thank you, Hala.