It was 1986, I was 6 years old and obsessed with Transformers. I loved those toys that were more than meets the eye. I had set my heart on obtaining some airplane transformers that combined into a larger robot. My parents suggested that this might be a good Christmas present. I kept the page from a toy catalog that had those transformers on it and looked at it daily, telling everyone who would listen about them.
On Christmas day, my parents and I went up to my aunt’s house for family celebrations. I remember my aunt handing me a set of presents saying, “Don’t get your hopes up kid, it’s all underwear and socks.” I unwrapped the first box and felt dread. I recognized the box from O’Neils, the local department store. My 6-year-old mind knew exactly what that meant, my aunt really was giving me socks and underwear. I looked at the other packages, they were all the same size and weight. They had to be more clothes. I felt deep disappointment, not even wanting to open that department store box.
A chuckle moved through the room, my aunt encouraged me to open the box and to my surprise a transformer was inside. Each box contained just the transformers I wanted. My aunt is pretty great and she likes to play jokes as well. She knew exactly how I would react when I saw those department store boxes. I am not sure she realized that it was a moment I would remember decades later.
The unexpected is difficult to face because it takes us from a place of certainty to uncertainty. The unexpected creates feelings of fear, disappointment, anger, resentment or even positive responses like joy, excitement, delight or relief.
When we face the unexpected, our reaction is very important. A healthy reaction can help you and I make the best of a difficult situation and even experience something new and wonderful. A poor reaction can cripple, lead to bitterness and regret. Our reaction is important, because it is often the only thing we control when we encounter the unexpected.
One such story is found in Matthew 3. Here we read about John the Baptist, preparing the way for the messiah. John proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” John described the coming messiah as “one more powerful than I” and taught that this messiah would offer a new baptism with Holy Spirit and fire.
During John’s first encounter with Jesus something strange happens. Instead of bursting onto the scene with power, Jesus arrives quietly. Matthew 3:13 states, “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.” No fireworks or fanfare. Instead of taking over for John and baptizing everyone with the Holy Spirit, Jesus asks John to baptize him.
John must decide how to react to Jesus. If he refused to baptize Jesus, John’s ministry ends that moment. He might have continued proclaiming the kingdom of heaven and baptizing people in water, but his ministry would be selfish and empty, no longer preparing the way for Jesus. However John consented, baptized Jesus, and saw the heavens open, the Holy Spirit descend and heard the voice of God.
John’s reaction made all the difference between receiving frustration and disappointment from himself or receiving blessing from God. When you and I face the unexpected we have the same choice. The unexpected may be unwanted or terrible, but in it God reaches out to us inviting us to trust him, depend on him, and allow him to do a new thing in us. Whatever you are facing that is unexpected, will you choose to put your trust in God and let him do something new?
Rev. Josh Walker is the pastor of Valleyview Evangelical Friends Church located at 868 W. William St. in Delaware.