Extend your arms in welcome to the future.
The best is yet to come!
-Anthony deMello, SJ
Although there is much evidence to the contrary, it turns out I can actually keep a surprise a surprise:
Don Suegro y Doña Suegra surprised J. by flying in from PR for his graduation weekend, and I was their complicit accomplice. Successfully keeping the secret a secret for about two and a half months, I fluctuated between excited anticipation for J.’s reaction to their visit, and total horror that I was allowing J. to feel sad/bad/mad his parents “couldn’t come” for graduation. Did the end justify the means?! I don’t know, except that the surprise reunion moment included a guiro (a hollow gourd musical instrument from PR), a tambourine, and even a few happy tears…which was awesome. The weekend festivities were full, joyful, celebratory, abundant, wonderfully exhausting; the weekend left me full of gratitude and emotion.
As evidenced by my less-than-consistent ability to keep surprises, my relationship to surprises in general is ambiguous. As a kid, though, surprises were decidedly exciting and happy (Christmas morning is the purest example of this anticipation). However, as I’ve grown into early adulthood, I’ve felt increasingly uncomfortable, anxious, impatient, or even intolerant at times of allowing myself to be surprised. Call this obvious, but I’m pretty sure this movement towards anxiety about the future has something to do with a) seeking control, b) fear of the unknown, c) lack of trust, or d) all of the above. Some of the most integrated moments of my adulthood so far have been when I have somehow, by the grace of God, been able to open up to the God of Surprises — the Giver of all good things, who showers us with abundant generosity, unrelated to our deservedness.
I believe that J. and I’s relationship was (and continues to be) a gift from this God of Surprises. The timing, the circumstances, this person, the way it began, the lessons used from experiences past, and all the ways I see God through it and through J. This relationship caught me off-guard, and sometimes I still feel I’m catching up to God in learning to accept all of this overflowing goodness.
This challenge, to accept God’s surprising gifts, hit me again this past weekend. Even though I’m not the one graduating this time around, J.’s graduation weekend stirred up within me a familiar swell of anxiety. When commencement speakers spoke of Successful Futures and All The Tools In Your Toolbox and Oh The Places You’ll Go!, my stomach churned with a mix of pride, hope, and sincere happiness for J.’s MBA journey, but also…fear. Fear of what it will be like now that we are both in the working world, and what if we become complacent in our careers, and what life will be like without any external structures (i.e., school or program) to keep us accountable or provide social opportunities, and what if we succumb to a fear-based quest for financial security above all, and what if we can’t realize our dreams?!?!
As my mind was “spiraling,” as we say, my eyes landed on a prayer I keep on my dresser mirror. I received this prayer on a grad student retreat a few months before my own graduation from my master’s program, when each retreatant chose a small box at random – a gift. Each box held a different image of God, with a different blessing. My prayer, chosen at random, is this:
May the God of Surprises be with you, awakening you to the gifts already in you, giving you a sense of eagerness and anticipation about your life, opening you to unimagined blessing and the deepest wisdom of your being. May God startle you with Infinite Love and Presence so that you begin to look for sudden joy in all you do. May the God of Surprises bless you.
Random, schmrandom. And thus my prayer is a call to trust: to be radically open to surprises about what comes next, to trust God’s accompaniment every moment, to know the no-matter-whatness of being God’s beloved. Oh the Places We’ll Go, indeed!