(Un)Surprisingly Good

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  

James 1:17

I have never seen anyone stare at a vegetable dish with as much suspicion as my mother stared at my eggplant parmesan in 2013. 

My mom sat across from me and glimpsed her plate cautiously. After trying eggplant parmesan for the first time at a pre-dental summer program in Cleveland, I was eager to impress my magic-hands mother with a recipe upon return. I worked tirelessly and meticulously to follow the intermediate-level instructions with my amateur chef skills. While the presentation of the dish varied slightly from the tantalizing image on Food Network’s website, multiple taste tests during preparation assured me that my eggplant parmesan was not only edible, but delectable.

And yet, my mother, who loved me, trusted me, and knew I was capable of making yummy meals, hesitated. It took mild convincing for her to dig a fork into the steaming heap of sauce, cheese, and eggplant on her plate. I’ll never forget her face when she exclaimed with unashamed surprise, “Wow Rave, this is actually really good!”

The (in)famous eggplant parmesan, circa 2013

Years later in dental school, I had the privilege of treating my favorite patient. This patient (also known to me as Dad- I have his permission to share!), came in for a filling on a front tooth. Determined to impress my faculty, my father, and myself with my forever increasing hand skills, I worked to create a well-contoured, perfectly polished, esthetic restoration. My father was tickled just to have received an injection of local anesthetic from someone whose diaper he’d changed as a baby. My clinical professor had plenty of praise to share. “Raven, this is actually really, really good!”, he’d declared, adding the final icing to my dad’s proud cake.

Daddy’s little dentist is at it again!

As an enneagram 3 constantly struggling to fight against the need for approval, I wanted to rest in the positive affirmation from my faculty member. Still, I couldn’t get past one sticky word. Actually? I thought to myself. Why did it feel like I still didn’t have the trust of those I cared for so dearly? Hadn’t I proven myself to my professor, my patients, my parents that I was capable of creating beautiful things?

Hasn’t God also proven to us over and over again that He is capable of creating beautiful things? Why then, if He loves us so dearly, does it feel so hard to trust Him sometimes?

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

I don’t know a better word to describe the chapters of life the Lord has brought me to and through than the (admittedly Christianese) term “season”. As someone who struggles with a selfish desire for consistency and security, I have rarely welcomed the loop-the-loops and dips of the rollercoaster God has orchestrated for this ride called my life. Frankly, I don’t even like rollercoasters that much. There have been times when I thought I could coast at a blissful high indefinitely. There have been other times when I was sure that my seatbelt was not secure, and that I was headed off the rails at unfathomable speeds. But just like I murmur after dizzily waddling off a ride at Disney World, I typically look back at what God has brought me through and decide, “Ya know, that was actually surprisingly good.”

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

Psalm 103:2

Though I’m pinched with guilt at the question, I regularly ask myself why I’m still surprised at God’s goodness. If He’s the Constant One, the one who doesn’t shift like the shadows, why am I still so flabbergasted at Him lighting up my life with His gracious heart?

I have told you these things, so that in me, you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

I think the simple answer is this – life hurts. Our expectations are often shaped by our past, and we often can’t look past our circumstances to relish the good plans He has for us. When you’ve made a critical error on a particular dental procedure before, it can seem surprising when the same procedure has a flawless result the next time you do it (even if you’ve done it well many times). When you’ve had your heart bruised badly before, it can be difficult to enter a relationship where you’re loved and celebrated simply for being yourself without expecting the other foot to drop. When another family member has served you a botched pasta dish of golden raisins in a tart sauce, it can make a hot plate of eggplant parmesan look pretty sketchy.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭
God is good. All the time.

Still, our God is trustworthy. He, the God of the universe, who didn’t owe us anything, has proven His goodness over and over again. From replenishing the earth after the great flood to rescuing Jonah from the belly of a whale, from raising up a scrawny shepherd named David to sacrificing a Savior Son named Jesus, God has and is and will forever be a good God. Despite our feelings, despite what hurt we’ve experienced. He is working for us and our good, because He is good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Sometimes it takes reflecting on journal entries about times when God brought you of something dark to something good. Sometimes it takes looking into the eyes of loved one. Sometimes you just need to witness a sunrise on a quiet morning. Whether this post finds you in a place of uncomfortable growth or unbelievable goodness, I hope it reminds you to taste and see that the Lord is indeed good, and that this is (un)surprisingly good news.

All the time. God is good.

4 thoughts on “(Un)Surprisingly Good

  1. This encouraged my heart so much. Love and am so thankful for you, friend ❤️


    On Tue, Feb 11, 2020, 4:59 PM Peanut Butter Faith wrote:

    > Raven-Deneice posted: ” Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming > down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like > shifting shadows. James 1:17 I have never seen anyone stare at a vegetable > dish with as much suspicion as my mother stared at” >


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