Just a Little Surprise

One challenge I face when traveling around the world is the relative nature of spice. What is spicy to one person is mild or bland to another. Typically what melts my lips, sets my mouth on fire, and burns a molten lava trail down my throat is mild to my Asian friends! Alas we have very different gauges for the heat factor in food. Since my stomach also rebels, I have to be careful how much I partake of the “burning ring of food.”

On a recent trip I was in two different countries both of which served food with the flames licking off the plate! I knew I was going to have to take it easy. My meals consisted of the mildest foods served—namely boiled rice with margarine and no salt. As the second week wore on, I reminded myself regularly to “Be thankful!” It is convicting to realize how entitled I often feel. God provided and I wasn’t ever hungry, thanks to some snacks shared by other members of the team. I had a lot to be thankful for. After all we were checking the quality of Scripture in several different languages—the real food of God’s Word was being tasted and savored by all. I couldn’t let a bland diet get in the way of the joy of our work.
I completed my portion of the checking of Scripture on Friday. As I walked back to our apartment when we were done, I felt like celebrating! We had completed the check of 1 Corinthians and dug into Romans. We had grown together and learned to respect each other. We had dug into the meaning of God’s Word in intense and precious ways, discussing such complex doctrines as the resurrection of Christ, our future resurrection, communion, spiritual gifts, and the women’s role in the church. It had been a long, fruitful week. I was exhausted and hungry. Spontaneously, I prayed, “God could you surprise me tonight with some kind of tasty food? Just a little surprise. Whatever you want to do.”

As supper was served, I whispered, “OK, Lord is this my surprise?” But as I lifted the lids of each dish, I realized it was the same courses we had been served before. I would have to settle for plain rice again. I was undaunted, determined to wait and see if God answered in an unexpected way.

Then one of our team members came into the room and said, “Who wants pizza and ice cream tonight?” Now that was an odd question. We were in a city, but had been sequestered inside the Bible conference center because of political unrest in the city surrounding us.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“We went down the road to the bookstore at noon today and across the road from this center is a pizza place. Do you want to try it?”

I was stunned! A pizza place right outside the center? But could we safely leave? It seemed that since the lunch excursion had been without incident then surely we could go again. We spread the word, inviting our host and consultant in training to join us. And off we went out of the compound, down the road and across the street to a wood-fired pizza place, with excellent service, delicious pizza and rich ice cream! This is my surprise! I thought. And my heart swelled with the amazing, generous love of God. It was a small thing—having bland food—especially in the midst of what we were getting to be part of. And yet, God answered my small request abundantly, not just for me, but for our whole team. We celebrated together with pizza and games, ice cream and conversation, joining our hearts in gratitude to God for what he was giving us.

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