As I Write This…

I am hoping that you had to take a minute to ask yourself what exactly was in this week’s cover picture. It’s a fried ice cream desert, in case you were like me and did not know they existed until this week. The thought of a fried ice cream intrigued me; I thought it would be a nice crispy shell and an explosion of cold but melted ice cream in the middle.

Turns out, it is a nice and flaky crust and the ice cream was still frozen. It made me shift my expectations.

The first official week of Alia Via is called “un-expectations.” I chose this for many reasons, even though it gained much inspiration from my delicious desert. “Un-expectations” are not often a welcome visitor in our day-to-day lives. Even the very fact that I called this week “un-expectations” and not “unexpected” could be a rather unwelcome sight for my editors—may the Lord bless them and keep them.

Nevertheless, “un-expectations” are a part of the fabric of our lives, and we need to learn to embrace them in another way.

Take, for example, our favorite trio in the Old Testament: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. If you aren’t familiar, these three boys were forced to worship the king of Babylon and refused. Their sentence?

Burn them alive.

They did not waiver as they approached their “un-expectation,” however. They remained faithful…and were set free! Well, not really, they absolutely got tossed in the fire. But as they fell into the fire, not only were they not burned, they were joined by an unnamed fourth party. Some consider this an angel, some even think this could be a premonition of Jesus on Earth.

The important thing is not that they stayed faithful in the face of the fire. Their “un-expectation” was not the fire, in my opinion. Their “un-expectation” was that they did not die in the fire in a martyr-like death, emblematic of a traditional heroic end. They lived, and they were not alone.

Any one of us has the ability to find courage in the face of hardship. That is beaten into young believers straight out of the womb. Even young unbelievers, like myself for eighteen years, are taught to be brave. But the idea of an unexpected angel somehow baffles us. We have become a faith that finds miracles to be extinct, or so rare and nuanced that we often miss them.

But God is actively at work in each of us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in infinitely many tiny miracles. And we miss it, because we have grown cold in giving thanks for the little things. We strain our hearts for big prayers, fix our eyes on those prayers, and go blind to every little gift. We are so afraid of making God too small that we forget God’s reach goes to places way smaller than our eyes can see.

“Un-expectations” can be difficult, but if we begin to see them in a different light, they become foundational experiences that change, little by little, how we view ourselves, our God, and our God’s beautiful and fearfully-made creation.

If we can create the intricate cookery behind a cup of fried ice cream, imagine what “un-expectations” God can cook up for us every single day.

“One’s destination is never a place, but rather an ALIA VIA of looking at things.” ~Henry Miller, paraphrased