Last week was big news for discovery geeks.
After being kept a secret for eight years, an ancient submarine forest is being explored about ten miles from the shores of Mobile, Alabama. The bald cypress forest, sixty feet deep in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, has been buried under sediment for approximately 50,000 years, perfectly preserving the trees in an oxygen-free environment. In 2005, the ravaging winds and waves whipped up by Hurricane Katrina peeled away the sediment, revealing the waterlogged stumps–some as big as trucks.
Fish, crustaceans and sea anemones discovered the site first, turning the primeval forest into an artificial reef. Where there’s fish, there’s fishermen, and apparently one of them got curious at what was attracting his catch to that spot. He let a scuba diving friend in on the secret, who dipped under the waves to discover the forest. They both decided to keep their find under wraps–until recently when the diver spilled the beans to a friend, Ben Raines. Raines, also a diver, strapped on his gear to take a look himself. “Swimming around amidst these stumps and logs, you just feel like you’re in this fairy world,” Raines said.
Another fairy world was discovered last month by a Texas road crew, who unearthed a cave along Ranch-to-Market Road 620 in Round Rock. The cave measures approximately 100 feet long and 60 feet wide, with a ceiling as high as 20 feet. In 1963 a similar situation happened in Georgetown, TX when a construction team discovered a cave which is now called Inner Space Cavern, a tourist attraction along Interstate 35.
Our planet still offers a few surprises, it seems. And why not? The earth is the product of a surprising Creator. That’s unsettling to some people, even a lot of Christians. Because most of us strive to make our lives predictable, we expect God to do the same. After all, didn’t God Himself declare, “I the Lord do not change”? (Mal 3:6)
God’s nature does not change, to be sure. He will always be a God of love, because He is the definition of love (I Jn 4:8). But God loves to express His unchanging love in surprising ways. As the embodiment of God, Jesus surprised an adulterous woman and her would-be executioners when He invited the one without sin to cast the first stone (John 8:7). He surprised a dinner party when He commended a sinful woman over His religious host (Lk 7:36-50). Jesus shocked His hometown when He reminded them, through two Old Testament stories, that God extended His grace and concern to the despised Gentiles (Lk 4:25-27). In fact, the synagogue crowd was so shocked they pushed Jesus out to a cliff to kill Him.
Why does God’s love surprise us? Because, frankly, we get jaded. We look at the troubled world around us and secretly wonder if God is asleep at the wheel. We see that some people don’t change and then make the leap that nobody will change. We go to church and hang around nice folks, so we get upset when we encounter sinful or difficult people. In theory we believe that God can transform them, but we talk and behave as if they won’t.
But, just like surprises open up on a remote road in Texas or under Gulf waters near Alabama, so the surprises of God’s transformative love happen every day. Let’s pray to see these surprises. Let’s believe they will happen, because they do.
Every day. All around us.