After announcing my intention to retire at the end of 2021, a friend emailed me. Along with good wishes, he encouraged me to keep my eyes and ears open to all kinds of surprises that the Spirit might have in store for me during the coming years.
I liked that word: surprise. I had some ideas about what I’d like to do after 30 years in ministry, but I also knew that this new season would be an adjustment. Since my wife was continuing to work, we were staying in the community where we have lived for over 23 years. Though we loved our church family, we felt it best to step out of that community so they would have the space and freedom they needed to make the decisions that come with staff vacancies. For us that meant navigating where to worship, how to stay connected to friends, and establishing appropriate boundaries. We had discussed how uncertainty, coupled with some anxiety, was normal and to be expected in the months surrounding my retirement. But we hadn’t considered the surprises, the good and gracious gifts that awaited us in the weeks, months, and years after.
Isaiah’s vision is filled with surprising hope for those living in the shadow of fear and uncertainty. A green shoot rises from what was cut down in the midst of a kingdom where creation is turned upside down, where creatures that normally kill and devour live in harmony with what was once their prey. Justice and righteousness reign and, to everyone’s surprise, a child leads this peaceable kingdom.
A few weeks after announcing my retirement, my wife and I learned our older daughter and her husband were expecting our first grandchild. What a surprise. As we wait and pray, adjust and let go, we look forward to other surprises that await us. So can you.
What gracious surprises have you experienced in the past few days? If you can’t think of any, start watching attentively.
Surprising God, help us to become attentive to your presence in all things. Amen.