She simply didn’t see him at all. She was walking across the road slowly probably heading to the shops on the other side. I was driving and could see the street behind her and it was un-characteristically empty. (It is usually full of every sort of vehicle, chaotic, and slow going through that portion of Cambridge.) The only thing I could see was the cyclist coming towards me – at pace. She kept walking. She didn’t appear disabled. She wasn’t using a phone. But I could see that her trajectory and speed and the cyclist’s would meet. There was a sharp intake of breath! (That was me … this was not going to end well.) Just moments before the impact the cyclist veered behind her – no impact! Phew! And the lady didn’t even notice. No quick turn of the head. No apparent appreciation of wind rushing by. She reached the footpath and kept on her journey. If there had been an accident I’m sure she would have said that she didn’t see it coming.
I didn’t see it coming. I expected we’ve heard that be-fore. Perhaps we’ve said it. The relationship break-down. The negative appraisal. The election result. The medical diagnosis. The accident. The failure. The betrayal.
It doesn’t have to be bad, of course. The marriage proposal. The gift. Faithfulness. The promotion. The affirmation. The surprise party. Surprises.
Christianity also has it’s ‘I didn’t see it coming!’. No one planned or predicted that Jesus’ death on the cross – a death with the meaning of being cursed by God – would be used by God to redeem, restore, return us from death to living with God. Despite Jesus’ talking about his rising from the dead on the third day, there was no cheer squad at the tomb awaiting his appearance. The planet and the forces of darkness simply didn’t see God’s rescue in this way.
Similarly when people come to faith – when we realise that such a thing as God’s grace to-wards us exists – because God’s grace challenges all notions of work righteousness and offers hope no matter the shame or the despair – there is a strong sense of the unexpected, incredulity, and the ‘I didn’t see that coming!’.
And when Christians – disciples of Jesus – are tired – from life, from besetting sins, from suffering – from the ‘routine’ of faith – when they feel empty, dry, parched, wondering whether Christianity is a delusion and faith a fraud, there can come the moment when God’s Word or Baptism or Holy Communion – or the memory of them – suddenly transports them to see things in a new way. It’s still them and their life but something is different. Maybe they have a sense of God’s perspective or presence. ‘I didn’t see that coming’, they say as they walk on another day following Jesus.
If our God does the unexpected – consider the cross – and hides himself in the mundane – consider words, water, bread and wine – then perhaps faith and believing itself has a quality of ‘I didn’t see that coming’. And we might then live waiting – expectant even – to see what God is doing day by day so that looking back and acknowledging that we didn’t see whatever it was coming, we can know that God was with us as well.