Has there ever been a time in your life when something unexpected happened to you? Something you had not planned on or anticipated? I must say that for me being in a federal prison was much unexpected. Never in a million years did I expect to be here. I’m sure you, too, have had many unexpected events or times in your life that you did not see coming. Maybe it was a raise or promotion at your job, or the sudden death or illness of a close friend or family member. Maybe you can remember those out-of-the-blue unexpected gifts that you received for no particular reason. Money that just happened to show up when you needed it the most. Unexpected instances will always occur in a lifetime – some good and some bad.
While in prison I have gone through a lot of unexpected moments…..unexpected changes to my daily schedule, unexpected closure of the compound, or the unexpected meal menu change. Better than those moments, I love receiving unexpected books in the mail or the unexpected letter from a friend I haven’t talked to since the start of my sentence. In fact, I was totally surprised to receive three positive and uplifting letters from individuals that I have not talked to since I left my teaching position over three years ago. They were unexpected gifts and brought a huge smile to my face!
What are some of your unexpected moments in life or unexpected gifts you have received? How did you react? Were they good or bad moments? Now think about this: What would you do if Jesus unexpectantly stood before you today and started talking with you face to face? Would you be scared, frightened or filled with joy? Unexpected moments or receiving unexpected gifts are what make life interesting. How you react to those moments is even more important. It defines your character. Look at the people in the Bible who had unexpected visits from Jesus: Mary and Joseph, Saul (Paul), Abraham, and Peter are some examples. How did they react when Jesus confronted them? Now think about the character of these people. They were or became a man or women of God. How they responded to their unexpected moment with Jesus defined who they were as a person.
My unexpected prison sentence does not define me as a person. What defines me as a person is how I react to my prison sentence and what I do about it. This unexpected event in my life did not waver my faith or turn me away from God. Instead, it made my faith stronger, making me rely on God every step of the way, doing the things He wants me to do for Him…..even behind these walls. When you have unexpected situations in your life, how are you reacting? Are you thanking Him for the unexpected good times and relying on Him more than ever on the unexpected tough times? I look forward to the unexpected times in my life that God will put in front of me in the months ahead. Yes, some will be tough. But I truly believe the unexpected good times will drown out the bad times by far. God puts these moments in front of us for a reason – reasons we might never understand. But He knows what He’s doing, and that’s all that matters.
Thank you all for the continued unexpected letters, gifts, and prayers I have received these past few years. God is using you to further His kingdom as much as He is using me. Keep looking forward to those moments in your life when God appears in front of you and says, “Surprise!” He’s full of surprises and unexpected moments and loves to see how we will respond! Make it be a “Yes, Lord!”