A dying sun streaks the Western sky in chalky pastels. Mountain ridges thick with deciduous trees lay long and dark, one after another, the bumpy backs of slumbering reptiles.
Fingers of mist cling to the valley floor on the hillocks between flat, grassy pastures. In the distance, the panoramic profile of the Blue Ridge mountains spans the horizon.
Birds trill in the still air, fresh and cool from the day’s showers. I take in a breath, attempting a deep draught of mountain air, but my throat catches as hot tears well up.
I am overwhelmed at God’s goodness in bringing me to this place, at the reason I am here. The fresh and tender memory of five days ago replays in my mind.
I am finally setting foot on the campus where I have studied for 3 ½ years to earn a Master of Theological Studies degree. 232 divinity school graduates will be commissioned this morning.
Fluffy cumulus clouds float high above the bright green canopy overhead, its leaves stirring in the light breeze, sunbeams filtering down. I find my group of fellow graduates near the colonial brick administration building. We walk single file to the tidy rows of white folding chairs where we will sit together during the ceremony.
I am excited, sleep-deprived, dazed. I listen to the stirring music, the charges, the honors given, the powerful preaching. The presence of the Spirit is palpable. My eyes sting as my heart swells with gratitude.
This is really happening.
When I graduated from Bible college over 40 years ago, I entertained the dream of attending seminary. Here I am now, God having resurrected a long-dead dream in his perfect timing. I wasn’t ready back then. I needed to live through a great deal more of life. I needed wisdom and understanding only learned in the trenches before I added the theological knowledge I’ve gained here.
Had you told me just five years ago that I would be standing on the porch of a cabin just outside Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, drinking in this scene, savoring where this educational and spiritual journey has brought me, I would never have believed you.
Or maybe I would.
Because this God I’ve known since childhood, this God who has always known and loved me, is full of surprises. He delights in delighting his children. His gifts are beyond human prediction. He honors those who honor him.
I grip the porch railing, tears blurring my vision, and give thanks to my Abba for all these years of faithfulness to me. Through every disappointment and dark valley, despite my cries and questions during the long, hard grind, he has been there. He has made a way. He has never given up on me.
There will be more mountaintops. There will be more valleys in between. That’s how life is. But here’s what I know about God and why I’m confident he’ll bring good surprises your way, too.
God is all powerful and entirely good. He has a way of wowing his kids in ways we could never anticipate.
Paul put it this way in Ephesians 3:20-21:
“Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
I don’t know what you’ve been going through or what you’ve been hoping for. I don’t know what lies beyond the reach of your imagination.
I don’t know exactly what Abba has planned for you, any more than I knew what he’d planned for me.
But this much I do know—it’s going to be good, because he is good.