Willing to Be Surprised!

Bringing a spiritual perspective to world events and daily life.

RECENTLY my wife and I met, as we often do, in the food court of a shopping mall near our offices. We caught sight of an elderly man, whom we'd often seen there before, trying to find a table, as we were. But his challenge was greater than ours; he was walking with difficulty, and each time he came close to a vacant table, another hungry diner would beat him to it. It reminded my wife and me of a Bible account (see John 5:2-15). At the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, Christ Jesus healed a man who had been lame for thirty-eight years. This man had been unable to beat others to the pool, whose waters were thought to have healing properties.

Back at the food court, a small metal table became vacant. Swiftly, my wife and I claimed it and helped the man toward it. Imagine our surprise when he turned to us and said, "But I always sit at a wooden table!" We encouraged him to use the metal table, and then turned our attention to finding a spot for ourselves. Later we chuckled over the incident, but saw a lesson in it. How often people insist on having their needs met in their own prescribed manner-a house, not an apartment; a job in the city, not the country; and, occasionally, a wooden table, not a metal one!

Yet the Bible has many accounts of the unexpected ways in which God can supply individual needs. In the wilderness, food came in a unique way to the children of Israel (see Exodus, chap. 16). An earthquake shook the prison chains from two early Christians, Paul and Silas, after they prayed (see Acts, chap. 16). The prophet Elijah was supplied by ravens with food during a time of famine (see I Kings, chap. 17). Five loaves and two fishes were multiplied to sustain a multitude after Christ Jesus prayed (see Mark, chap. 6).

"Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth"; said the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, "shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert" (43:19). We can pray to God to help us in all circumstances. But it is important not to try to outline God's activity in our lives. We can stand firm, knowing that prayer will be answered; and then be willing to be surprised! People have demonstrated over the centuries that God is absolutely dependable and helps all His children in time of need. But we have to be wide-open to the varied ways in which God's solutions may come. So many people delight in new recipes, new clothes, new sports, new technologies-yet remain oblivious of the "new things" God is already doing for them.

An American writer, Mary Baker Eddy, said, when referring to God as Soul: "Soul has infinite resources with which to bless mankind, and happiness would be more readily attained and would be more secure in our keeping, if sought in Soul." This is from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (p. 60), a book she wrote explaining her discovery of Christian Science. In it she made clear that God is by His very nature infinite. His blessings, ever consistent with that nature, are unlimited. The key to healing is joyous expectancy, based on knowledge of God's unconditional love for His creation. God's ways are not human ways, but He supplies all human needs, and learning of God can help you and me maintain our happiness and health.

Too often we shut ourselves off from the adventure of discovering the breadth and individuality of God's blessings. Like our friend in the food court, we become so set in our ways that we fail to recognize (much less joyfully accept) the "manna" that has already fallen in our lives-that is, the fresh opportunities and creative solutions that are right before us.

This tendency is so unlike the response of that man at the pool of Bethesda, who did not hesitate when Jesus said, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk." He was ready for something new. Feeling the presence of God, which Jesus helped him to recognize, he responded immediately. And he was healed.

This can be our experience, too.

Other articles on Christian Science can be found in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.

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