What was the biggest surprise you ever had?

It was a brisk morning in September as I walked to school with my lunch in hand. Entering my office I remembered that the person who had used this office before me often placed her lunch on the wide outside ledge to keep it cool. So I placed my fruit and sandwich outside, closed the window and began work. About half way through the morning I heard a tapping at my second floor window. I turned to see a giant crow pecking at my lunch. As I rose from the chair to make him leave, he took flight alright but with my sandwich in his beak. I was surprised that a crow could actually do this. If I had expected it, I would have walked to the end of the hall and placed my lunch safely in a refrigerator.

Then there was the evening that I went out on the patio to shake my dust cloth and stepped on a strangely soft lump. As I stepped back I saw a dead bird. I suppose the neighborhood cat who likes to sit on our patio thought this was an appropriate trade for use of the space. That surprise made me glad that I was at least wearing slippers. I will prepare for that possibility in the future by turning on a light before I head out after dark.

Some years ago, when our son had a newspaper route, my husband went out to help with an extra day’s worth of papers that came after a paralyzing blizzard. After retrieving papers from the car, he turned to head down the sidewalk only to slip on ice and break his ankle. Surgery including nails and pins quickly followed. That was a surprise that changed how our family did things for several weeks. Greater care or better foot wear might have avoided that accident.

I’m sure these stories have triggered memories of many surprises you’ve had. Some may have been good and some may have been bad.

One event that is coming for everyone and will surprise some but not others, is our first face-to-face encounter with Jesus. We don’t know just how or when it will happen, but we are promised that it will happen. Jesus said, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” Matthew 24:42-44.

For some, our first encounter with Jesus will come as a result of a sudden, serious injury or accident such as a heart attack or stroke. For others our first face-to-face meeting with Jesus will be after a long, lingering illness or a natural aging process. For others, his physical return may be our first face-to-face encounter with Jesus.

Let us not be caught off guard. All we need to know about preparing for this encounter is written in God’s life manual, the Bible. The next time you are surprised by something, be it good or bad, remember the future surprise of meeting Jesus. Don’t put off making the necessary preparations.

Helen McCormack writes the Reflections column every six weeks. She and her husband, David, serve with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Germany.