Some of you know I planned this big surprise for my husband for his 50th birthday. This quiet man, silly with those he lets near him, devoted at his workplace, always making time for his boys — this man is someone to celebrate. We all are married to a marred individual. You know and I know I could post a list of gripes about this same person. I could list his foibles and say how I wish this or wish that, but God’s done a number on me in the marriage department and it goes something like this: you can seek out the good and be a part of what God is doing or you can spotlight the “not yet” and “never” and end up frustrated, angry and depressed. I go for option A. Besides, I’m simply as flawed as the next person, so the idea of being able to demand excellence from my husband would be a bit unfair to say the least.
So I’ve been planning this secret little getaway and it involved having one friend book the hotel and another keep the boys. It included asking our priest to pull off a charade that my husband was still participating in the outreach to the recovery home Sunday afternoon. It entailed calling the Human Resource Department at my husband’s work and asking for him to get the day off so that when he went into work Friday he was told, “Go home and celebrate your birthday.” And, they, knowing him, said to me, “You’d better be here or he’ll refuse to leave and insist on just doing his job.” So the boys and I arranged to be there and take him to breakfast and then he and I could leave for the get-away.
All this preparaion and waiting and sitting on a surprise like a great, wonderful egg ready to hatch has taught me some magnificent and unexpected lessons and I wanted to share them with you all here:
1. Waiting is not bad.
It gets a super-bad rap like if we have to wait we just might die in the process. But, truly, waiting is one of the best spiritual disciplines. God does much in the waiting room. It feels like nothing is going on while we wait, but I think we know life is not measured by how things feel anyway. While surfaces appear uneventful, there are subterranean rumblings. If God were to lift the veil, we’d see that often the most important things He is doing happen during times of waiting.
In His Word He says that all creation is groaning like in childbirth – waiting for Christ to return. And Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for us. I started thinking about God’s waiting as I realized how much sheer joy there has been for me in the whole preparation of this gift for my husband. It has been elaborate and specific and lavish. It is a product of my love for Him. All of a sudden it dawned on me that God is preparing a surprise for us too – specific, elaborate, lavish and for His beloved (that’s you!). He’s sitting on it (so to speak) and waiting to share it with us and I can’t help but feel His giddy anticipation of the day He will reveal it all to us.
3. It is more blessed to give than receive.
Okay, this is only half true. It’s pretty awesome to receive. And, as one who spent the bulk of my life (maybe like 3/4 so far) resisting being on the receiving end and dysfunctionally being the giver so I felt valued, I love receiving now. I have been freed up to receive from others — and that frees me up to receive from God. It takes trust to receive and now that I’m getting the hang of it, I have to say, it is pretty awesome. But, back to the giving — it is a HUGE blessing. We are blessed in order to be a blessing and when we pour out on someone, we somehow look back in our own pitcher and like the oil in the widow’s jar, it is not empty, but even more full! God’s math is so radical!
4. When you pour out on someone – planning, thinking, praying, giving –
your love for them grows.
It’s like how gratitude results in joy. Count your blessings and you end up seeing life as full of them over time. God gives rose-colored vision to those who choose to thank Him in any and all circumstances. Just the same, the fruit of giving is increased love. Maybe this is why Jesus prescribes for us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us and pray for those who persecute us. As we do, His love for them multiplies in us. But, when you already love someone and you do something special for them, it is like a magnifying glass under the sun. I have this intense love for my husband right now and it is a direct byproduct of three months of planning, saving and preparing.
5. Keeping a secret is sacred space.
When I first thought of this idea, I shared it with very few people. I prayed over it and it was my own little thought with God. When you keep something to yourself you are making a space to share with God alone and it enriches your intimacy with Him. As I shared with chosen others, the secret made a bond between us. Now there are ugly, dark, dirty secrets in this world and those need to be broken open in the light of God’s love and handed to Him for the balm of His healing. I’m not talking about that kind of secret here. When you have a sweet, loving secret that is like a dandilion puff in your hand and you just keep it so gently and tenderly in your own palm it feels even more precious.
Then, when you open your hand just a little to let someone else see the wonder of it, they are blessed and the joy doubles. That’s what it has been like for me with this. I have cherished this secret and enjoyed sharing it with the co-conspirators and even here on my blog (which includes my two sons who have been a part of learning how to bless and how to keep hush-hush through all this time). It is said of Mary that she treasured the truth of Jesus’ conception in her heart. Keeping an amazing secret is like treasuring something in your heart and it makes space for a quiet smile between you and God.
Hotel photo courtesy of Inn at Morro Bay; Other photos courtesy of WikiCommons