You've probably heard this one before, maybe even said it yourself: nothing surprises me any more.
It's a sentiment we express when the world seems to have hit a new low. When the headlines are more shocking than they were yesterday. When younger and younger children bring guns to school, when younger and younger children taken their own lives, when animals are chained on shorter and shorter chains, when the bones of hunger protrude further and further from the flesh, when crime escalates. Whatever it is, we just shake our heads and say, of course. Nothing surprises us any more.
Except, of course, that that's not exactly true.
When we say it, what we mean is that nothing about human nature surprises us any more. Nothing about men is shocking. We are so accustomed to and familiar with the depravity of a broken humanity that it phases us less and less every time we see it until it doesn't surprise us any more. Men are broken. They are perverse. They are depraved. It is what it is.
But give us something good in the world, and we can hardly believe it. It's so entirely unexpected that it takes us by surprise, somehow. There was a story a week or two ago about a young man and an older woman, two complete strangers, sharing lunch at a McDonald's. And it went viral. Because who would ever have thought they'd see such a thing?
Not us depraved human beings. That's for sure.
And we're talking here about genuine acts of good, not those that are done for show. Not those that are over-the-top extravagant and that expect to be noticed. We're talking about genuine, authentic, quiet acts of good that are taking place around us every day, but that we miss them because we expect them not. And when we do see them, they surprise us.
But even that is not all, for as surprising as genuine good is in the world, there is something more surprising still - genuine God.
When was the last time you saw God active and working in the world? When was the last time you saw someone healed, a life restored, a relationship repaired, a heart turned? When did you see a miracle?
The truth is that we've come to expect these things less and less, and so when they happen, they surprise us all over again. We can hardly believe it. We're actually quick to dismiss it, finding it some kind of brokenness of depravity rather than a real inbreaking of Heaven. On occasion, perhaps, it's so undeniable that it takes our breath away, that we could never just dismiss it, but we never really accept it and certainly don't expect it. It seems the work of God, who is active among us, is always a surprise.
Do you see what's happened here? We are living in a time and place where we take for granted, take as a given, human nature with all of its failures and foibles, but we trust not in the power and presence of God or even good. We say we are not surprised by anything, but the truth is that we are surprised by the very things that are most real, most true. We are surprised by the things we ought to consider givens - the goodness of God, for example - and unphased by the illusion of what we think we know.
What would happen if the goodness of God didn't surprise us? What would happen if we lived our lives expecting good and beautiful and holy things to happen? How would it change our perspective if the real shocker of our existence was our own depravity?
After all, how can men so loved by God, so special in all of Creation, so endowed with the Holy Spirit be so incredibly depraved? That's the surprise, no matter how often we see it in the headlines or how commonplace it becomes.
Yet God loves us all the same, and that should be no surprise at all.
Except, of course, that it seems that it is.