Used book sales are better than Starbucks. For one thing, they are easy on a college student’s budget. A buck for a hardcover doesn’t cause a twitch as you’re reaching for your wallet. Used books have such character, too, with tears, creases, dog ears, highlighting, and underlining. I’m always afraid to hurt new books, as if bending the cover back is equal to desecration. Used books have already taken the stress and survived. They have been loved and shared.
A few months ago, my college library had a book sale. I adopted 14 books to bring home and enjoy. The majority of these came from the library’s theology collection. One of these I started to read immediately. With a title like “Surprise Me,” it’s no wonder it caught my attention.
“Surprise Me” by Terry Esau is about a self-described “30-day faith experiment.” The book is basically a 30-day journal from an average man’s life. Maybe not so interesting, except there’s a gimmick to it. He starts every day with a three-word prayer: “Surprise me, God.” Esau prayed this and then waited to see what God would bring his way.
Since the book is a day-to-day journal, it offers the chance to see Esau’s reflections change over time. Esau begins without expecting much. He doesn’t even know if his idea will be published. But as his month continues, he develops an eye for God’s work in his life and the impact his experiment can have not only on his life but anyone willing to pray, “Surprise me, God.” At one point in the book, Esau realizes this prayer actively opens the door for God to act in your life with pleasant surprises as well as not so pleasant ones.
Once I read the final journal entry, I put down the book with a good feeling but without feeling impacted. Esau’s experiment is intriguing but reading his experiences don’t inspire a changed life. Fortunately, Esau’s experiment didn’t end with the book. It turns out a lot of other people thought his idea sounded interesting, too, and decided to try it out for themselves. Now, the “Surprise Me” experiment has its own website at www.surprisemegod.com. Churches or groups can order starter kits and even book Esau for a speaking event. There’s also a list of blogs dedicated to the experiment if you’re not ready to try it for yourself but enjoy reading about the lives of other people.
“Surprise Me” suggests a new way of thinking about divine intervention. Trying the experiment may mean finding out, like Esau did, that praying for surprises from God is really about giving up control for God to act in your life.