My phone rang unexpectedly at 7:15 in the morning earlier this week. Although some of us are up, we rarely get calls that early. It was my sister calling to wish my daughter a happy birthday. She said that she wanted to make sure she caught my daughter before she left for school that morning, so she had left herself a reminder. She reminded herself to call first thing in the morning by leaving a shoe in her kitchen sink the night before. While I have heard of tying a string around your finger, this one was definitely new to me! What in the world would shoes in the sink have to do with remembering to make a phone call?
Her strategy was this: when she walked in the kitchen to start breakfast for her kids, she would immediately notice that there was a shoe in the sink. Since that is not generally where they keep their shoes, she would then think to herself…perhaps even ask herself out loud…”Why in the world is there a shoe in my sink?” At this point, even in her sleepy state, she would remember that she wanted to call her niece to say “Happy Birthday” first thing in the morning. Ta da! A perfect plan that achieved its intended goals.
The beauty of this plan is in the power of the unexpected. She did not expect to see a shoe in her sink when she entered her kitchen. This was not the usual place for shoes. In fact, it was a very silly place for a shoe to be. This unexpected discovery got her attention. Had there not been a shoe in her sink, she would have probably gone about her usual morning routine and forgotten her desire to do something different that morning.
How often does God put a “shoe in our sink” to get our attention? What sort of unexpected things does God send our way in order to refocus our attention away from the mundane, the usual or the routine? How often do we miss God’s presence altogether because he came in a way that we weren’t expecting? I think we often go through our daily routine and never notice the ways God is working around us. We limit our experience of God’s interventions in our life to the ways that we have seen God work in the past. By limiting our perception of who God is, we make God safe and manageable. A safe and manageable God is much easier to dismiss, or at least to relegate to a place of lesser importance in our lives.
That first Christmas God came in a very unexpected way. When the shepherds got up that morning, I suspect they never anticipated the angel chorus to come. When Mary felt those first pangs of labor, I imagine she never expected to give birth in a stable a few short hours later. The world wasn’t looking for a God that would humble himself in such a way. The Jewish people were expecting an altogether different kind of Messiah. Jesus continually said things that challenged the status quo; who ever heard of a Servant King?
In “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” one of my favorite books, Lucy and her siblings are asking Mr. and Mrs. Beaver about Aslan, the King:
“Is—is he a man?” asked Lucy.
“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion–the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Oooh,” said Susan, “I thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.”
What kind of God are you expecting this Christmas? Will we know God when he comes? Are we willing to open our hearts to the possibility of a bigger God than we ever imagined? Are we brave enough to watch for a God that isn’t safe but who is definitely good? A God who is different than we expected, better than we expected, more than we expected…the Kings of Kings!
This post was originally published on Kelly’s blog, “Grace Notes.”