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Surprise party

July 17, 2013
I love surprise parties because they're the one time in our culture when it's socially acceptable to lie to your friends. As long it keeps the subject of the party in the dark, anything goes.

"No, Jim, I can't go out to dinner on your birthday, I have, um, surgery … on my, uh, gizzard. Yeah, that's it. Gizzard surgery."

The whole process is also helpful because it reveals which of the people in your life are the best liars. This tells you who to watch out for in the future. Some of the sweetest, most innocent people I know have displayed skills of deception that are downright disturbing.

Take my wife, for example. She threw me a surprise party for my 40th birthday and totally suckered me in. I had no clue. After seeing how naturally deceptive she was, I'm now convinced she might be a Russian spy.

My co-workers are no better. Last week, I celebrated my 10th anniversary on staff at my church, and my friend offered to take me to Starbucks before work to celebrate. I thought it was a kind gesture. Turns out it was a setup. While we were drinking coffee, everyone else was laying out a spread of food and smuggling in balloons. I never saw it coming.

The funny thing is, once everyone jumps out and yells surprise, we don't care that they've been secretly scheming behind our backs. In fact, that's what makes us feel special. We can't believe that so many people would go to so much trouble just for us.

This reminds me of how God works in my life.

Jesus once said that His Father is always at work. But, honestly, sometimes I just don't see it. I pray about situations, and nothing changes. I wait. I worry. I pray some more. Still nothing.

Then, just when I least expect it, God flips on the lights and yells, "Surprise." In an instant, I see how He's been orchestrating the answer to a prayer over a period of weeks, months or even years.

Once I see what God's really been up to, do I complain that I wasn't in the know all along? Of course not. I'm too busy being blown away that God not only heard my prayer, but moved heaven and Earth to answer.

Still, there are other prayers that seem unanswered and may not make sense this side of heaven. Where was God then? Undoubtedly moving in ways I could not see or comprehend. I know this because I trust His character.

A follower of Jesus named Paul once wrote, "In all things, God works for the good of those who love him." In all things. Even if I can't see it. Even if I don't understand it. One day I will.

It's hard to believe that the God of the universe would go to all of this trouble for a guy like me. Yet, He does. In those moments of surprise, when I get a glimpse of how God's been working behind the scenes, I can't help but feel loved. Totally, unconditionally loved. And that's probably the greatest surprise of all.

Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.

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