Surprised by love

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ proves that we live in a world of surprises. But what I can't figure out is why we are so surprised! This world, after all, was made by God and belongs to him. And our God is ever always and forever doing something new. That, I suppose, is what invariably catches us off-guard. And frankly, it's a very good thing. Because when we live uneventful lives in a world we can predict, we are lulled into the notion that we are the ones in control, or even worse, that we should be.

Expectations are powerful things. The holy women who arrived with embalming spices at the tomb of Jesus did not find what they expected. That surprised and frightened them. It also frightens us. Meeting expectations is one thing; wildly exceeding them puts us outside the comfort of the box most of us choose to live in. We are prepared for disappointment. It makes sense to us. But what then do we do with a God who does not fall short -- one who will not disappoint?

Despite the appearance of angels, the women ran away from the empty grave to tell the disciples what they had seen -- or more accurately, what they hadn't. Only Peter and John ran toward the tomb. The rest stayed where they were in every sense. They dismissed what they had heard as wishful thinking; held on to the disillusionment of what had happened too tightly to be moved by faith; buttressed their unwillingness to consider the possibility of a love that is stronger than death.

Like the first followers of Jesus, we find the love of God surprising because we are convinced that it is not possible. Behind the bluster of self-confidence and self-esteem, we believe we are unlovable. Every one of us can give a list of reasons why God could not -- and should not -- love us. Yet, in the face of it, he does. Even more, he does so extravagantly and with joy, not grudgingly or out of some divine sense of obligation. Knowing our sins and ourselves better than we do, God chooses to love us.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how often I choose good things, but not the best things. Maybe it's because I just want to get in there and fix whatever's wrong or broken or dissatisfactory, and fix it fast. Often that drive includes those things that can't be fixed quickly; even things that can't be fixed at all. I'm starting to realize that if I was more like Jesus, I would love beyond what's wrong. I would know and trust that only love could make it right.

Love is the biggest surprise of all because it always exceeds expectations. That is because God is love. Love laid Jesus in a manger and nailed him to a cross. But love does not leave off there. It bursts forth and calls us to the tomb we expect, so that we can see for ourselves -- and tell others -- about what we could never dare to expect: Christ is risen. Love cannot die.

Love is the good news you tell without ever having to set a reminder or calendar entry. There is no greater joy than knowing that we are loved and lovable because God has loved us. Beyond our weaknesses and sins, beyond our proud accomplishments, beyond the hurts we have both suffered and caused, God loves us. Love like that cannot be kept in a box any more than it can be buried in a tomb.

Easter still surprises -- and unnerves -- the human heart. But once we get over the shock and take it in, we can learn to believe our eyes. Imagine what the answers to our prayers might look like if we trusted God to know our needs, and only asked him to surprise us.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.