The little boy awakened early in the morning. He wanted this day to be the most special day he ever had. It was his birthday, and it was official, he was 8 years-old. He was down the stairs and in the kitchen ahead of his brother and sister. Both parents wished him a happy birthday, then mom returned to the chore of preparing breakfast, while dad was catching up on the sports scores from the newspaper.
Before long the other children had reached the kitchen and everyone was busily gathering up school books and lunches and backpacks, while also eating breakfast. It was at that point in the morning routine, silence was broken with the birthday boy asking, "When do my birthday surprises start?"
For this 8 year-old boy, there was the expectation that the entire day would revolve around him. Nothing was more important that day than his birthday happiness. Sure, the family had planned for an evening meal in the party room of the pizza place. There would be some relatives attending and some classmates to join in the celebration. But his question that morning just hung in mid air. "When do my birthday surprises start?"
When mom explained the celebration was going to be that evening, and everything else was like any other day, his disappointment was evident. He was happy the evening party had been planned, but he was expecting more. He sulked a bit as he saw his dad leave for work. His mom had meetings to attend. His brother and sister started for the door to catch the school bus. His mom helped him gather his things and shuffled him out the door to the bus, too. Everything, to everyone else, was just another normal day, and he wanted it to be so special.
Mom tried to talk to him and build up the excitement for the party that evening, but it was obvious he was disappointed. Then he explained his view of having a birthday. "But mom, I am going to be 8 years-old all day long."
That story reminded me of the ways in which we think of God. We may pray that God has his way in our lives, but then we follow our own wishes and decisions, often wondering when the surprises are going to start because we are centered on ourselves. Some might even say, "we didn't see anything God wanted us to do, and besides, this is Monday, not Sunday!
While God puts you at the center of his love, he also puts your friends, your enemies, your teachers, your neighbors, everyone else, smack dab in the center of his love, too. In so doing, he puts people and circumstances in our path which can alter our plans, so we can follow HIS plans. Isn't that what happened in Jesus' story of the Good Samaritan?
"I'm going to be 8 years-old all day, and I am counting on surprises all day long." That's the picture of someone who thinks everyone, including God, should bow to our wants and wishes. The life that looks for a "surprise" to use it to help and love and serve others, is finding God's control over everything. That's how we should be serving him.