How Do You Handle Life’s Surprises?



I expected strange.

But this all seemed so normal.

Like the Gulf of Mexico I grew up with.

Or the Atlantic Ocean where my family summered (Summered? That sounds so pretentious and longer than the actual week we vacationed).

Or the Sea of Japan in which Ellen, Daniel, and I shivered with our Russian friends.

Normal until I took one more step. Then my feet flew up and I ended up bobbing like a cork.

In the Dead Sea deep.

The Dead Sea shimmers under a desert sun at 1388 feet below sea level, the lowest elevation on the planet. Can you even call something a sea when it’s below sea level? Or a depression in the earth an elevation? That’s kind of like saying we live in the post-present age where it’s always tomorrow today.

You had to read that twice didn’t you?

The Dead Sea drinks from the Jordan River but never seems to quench its thirst. For that reason, all the water comes into the Dead Sea but none of it leaves. That makes it deadly. In fact, its Hebrew name, the Killer Sea, makes the sea seem more proactive and less prosaic.

A fish accidentally swept downriver and tossed into this sea will die. Nothing but extra-strength bacteria survives in its super-salient waters.

So what can you do in the Dead Sea?


Which is surprising.

Can be enjoyable.

Or unnerving.

Which sounds a whole lot like life.

Life surprises. That’s a fact. An unexpected twist can change life’s course in a moment.

A phone call.

A shadow on the X-rays.

A stop at a convenience store.

And I would venture you went to dark places with the above lines. But not all surprises tend toward the morbid.

I walked the dog on Friday and found half a twenty dollar bill. A further search of the area provided the other half.

A surprise.

And a delight.

Life provides both plenty to enjoy and plenty to unnerve. How you respond depends a great deal on two core issues.

1)      CONTROL. I saw this issue come to life when people’s feet popped to the surface in the Dead Sea. Some recognized they had no control over the situation (you really couldn’t sink if you wanted to), relaxed, and floated on their backs with a smile. Others headed for the shallows. They were willing to stay in the water but they refused to loosen the grip on their control. I really didn’t see any smiles among that group.

2)      TRUST. At some point, you’ve got to trust something or someone beyond you. I had some control while I floated in the Dead Sea, but I also had to relax and trust the physical laws of nature—extra salt and minerals in the water result in greater buoyancy—in order to enjoy this intriguing and unique experience.

I’ll state the obvious because the obvious is no small point. All of life presents a constant barrage of surprises.

Some are good.

Floating in the Dead Sea.

First kiss.



Some are not so good.

Floating in the Dead Sea.

First kiss.



Hey, wait a doggone minute. Didn’t you just write that?

Why, yes, I did. And you know why?

Because for every good experience for someone, there’s someone else saying, “That’s not true for me.”

And here’s the point. Whether you see things as good or bad, you still face the challenge of a response. You still have to answer this one question.

Do I trust the ONE?

And its companion.

Can I release control of my life into His hands?

Both questions have the same answer.

Question: If both questions have the same answer, then what is it and why?

About tnealtarver

I've traveled and spoken around the world but always love to come home. There I eat exceptional meals, drink coffee to my heart's content, and get loved like nowhere else on earth. I believe a community centered in Christ should be all that and so much more.
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6 Responses to How Do You Handle Life’s Surprises?

  1. Brandon says:

    Very cool!

  2. cwaynebo says:

    Started out a little flat, but you surprised me with the barrage of surprises. I give it 4.5 stars.

  3. Sheila says:

    Tom, I have to tell you that I have thoroughly enjoyed your writings in the past few weeks. You have great insight in sharing the various experiences that our group shared on the work and witness trip to Israel and Jordan. I have made copies of each one to share with others who might not otherwise read your entries. Your writings are God inspired.

  4. tnealtarver says:

    Thanks, Sheila. Comments help me know that someone’s out there. That motivates me to keep it up. Specific feedback helps a great deal. Good, bad, or indifferent–each comment let’s me know if I’m hitting the target.

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