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John  3 : 16
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Expecting the Unexpected
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Friday, December 20, 2013
Alf Cengia

Sometimes life throws you little curve balls that surprise and send you off balance. Sometimes those curve balls aren't so small - they hit you so hard they irrevocably change your entire world. They can turn it upside down in the blink of an eye.

One such curve ball hit me when I was around twenty years old. I was at work at the time and my manager told me that my dad's boss was outside and urgently needed to talk with me. I feared the worst.

My alcoholic father had been on a drinking spree for some weeks and hadn't been to work. I was afraid that his boss had had enough and was telling me that my dad had been fired. Or maybe my dad had been in some accident because of his drinking?

But it was far worse than what I could have had ever imagined. It rocked my comfortable little world to the core, as well as my entire family. My youngest brother had taken his own life. Anyone who has ever faced such a revelation (I'm sure some readers of this column have) will be familiar with the process of denial, followed by shock, devastation and numbness.

That event split our family. We could no longer live with my dad. The aftermath threw him over the edge, and we indirectly blamed him for the tragedy. Life was never the same again.

Years later, after my surviving brother had married and settled down in a new house, there was another potential life-changing event that almost crossed our paths. It was all too close, both geographically and emotionally.

My brother lived nearby a small airport that has since been closed down. One fateful night, a few short blocks from his house, a small plane crashed into a home and killed all its occupants. Inside the house were a woman and her children. Her husband was only spared because he was a shift worker and wasn't home that night.

I couldn't help thinking how close that plane came to my brother's house. What if it had hit it instead? How would I cope? But I also couldn't help wondering what was going through that poor man's mind after finding his whole family had been taken from him. I could only imagine based upon my own experience.

Last week my wife and I had done some shopping and we stopped for gas on the way home. While I was at the pump, she walked to the gas station store. As she got close to the entrance she tripped over the curb and fell head first into the thick plate glass window.

I heard the loud noise and presumed someone had just slammed the door. Then after a few seconds I heard my wife moaning. I looked up and saw her crumpled on the snowy pavement, holding her head in her hands. My heart leapt into my throat. We tend to laugh at television portrayals of people running into objects. Yet real life has real, and often tragic, consequences.

Aside from the fact that my wife had had extensive surgery on her jaw and mouth, I could have lost her. Just like that! The bruised hands and thumbs were nothing to the intense headache and soreness in her jaw and neck, or the dizziness and tingling throughout her body. We both remembered how Liam Neeson's wife, Natasha Richardson lost her life after a fall. It all began with a headache.

That night my wife remarked how our lives can suddenly change in the blink of an eye. Two days later that remark returned to haunt us.

I was sitting at my laptop browsing on Facebook, and came across a request for prayer for the families of three people (husband, wife and son) who had died that day in a tragic home fire. The names were instantly familiar. My brain immediately went into that very same denial it had when I was given news about my brother's death.

I could barely find the words to tell my wife. It had to be some cruel joke.

My wife and I met the woman who died in that blaze on a prophecy blog around 2007, and we maintained close contact.  She was a very humble, gracious, high-achiever who was heavily involved with her church. She and her family are now with the Lord. But we all miss her terribly.

It hasn't been a great week. Our hearts go out to their families.

These incidents have brought some difficult lessons home for us. We must treasure our friendships and our loved ones right now. They may be removed form us suddenly, or even the other way around. We need to weed out pettiness from our relationships and replace it with prayer, love and support.  I too often fail miserably at these things.

We cannot plan for the unexpected. God doesn't normally provide information on the smaller details of our lives. But He has given us revelation on His Grand plan for Eternity. Therefore we must keep our eyes on Christ. Just like Peter when he scrambled out of that boat and walked on the water towards Jesus, as a storm raged about him. Christ is our refuge in the storms.

Before these incidents, I'd been reading through Psalms in the Old Testament. For some reason I got stuck at Psalm 46 for a few days. I scribbled a note and placed a sticker there - as I often do when something grabs at me. I rejoiced in the comforting words. Perhaps God intended for me to stay there a while, knowing what would come.

We are to cultivate an Eternal Perspective which helps us to cope with grief and gives us that Blessed Hope. Yet, even so - the pain doesn't always go away. And some of us feel it more acutely than others do. We are, after all, human.

Christmas is quickly overtaking us and some of us will be celebrating it for the first time without precious loved ones. Our heart-felt love and prayers go out to them all.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.


About Alf Cengia

Last week: Poetic Irony and Gifts

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