By Steve Cole
One day I was visiting a local restaurant for lunch. From behind the counter, people are served hot dishes or sandwiches “made to order” and listed on a menu overhead. After getting the food I wanted, I went to the end of the line to pay the cashier. I don’t know why, but I asked her: “What was the best sandwich you ever had here?” She told me that the best sandwich was the one she got when she said to the cook, “Surprise me.”
Later, the thought occurred to me: I wonder if I could pray like that? How about just saying to God, “Surprise me,” and leaving it at that. What would happen? Since then I have tried this, and am happy to report that it works! By that I mean, when I leave all completely in God’s hands, a door will open in thought that I didn’t even know was there to knock on. After all, there must be endless thoughts and ideas that the infinite Mind has for us that are not on the limited menu of possibilities the human mind conceives for itself.
But is treating God like a short order cook really appropriate? Well, didn’t Jesus say, referring to God as the source, “Ask, and it shall be given you” ( Matthew 7:7)? The Lord’s Prayer is partly a prayer of this kind of asking. And there are many other places in the Bible where God is asked to impart specific things, like wisdom, as in the case of Solomon (see II Chronicles 1:7–12) or a change of heart, as when the Psalmist asks God to “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way” ( Psalms 119:37).
We have to subordinate the human ego to the divine Mind who creates, governs, and reveals all.
However, there may be a situation in which we are frustrated, not receiving the answer that we think we should get to a particular problem. We may be trying to make things happen our way, or only according to the possibilities we know about. In that case it’s time to order “off menu,” and say, “Surprise me.” God, who is all-knowing and all-loving, is ready to open a way for us that we have not thought of or might not choose ourselves. Humility and complete trust on our part is met by originality and practicality on God’s part. What before seemed complex, elusive, or obscure, becomes simple, immediate, and obvious.
Just think of Moses and the children of Israel at the Red Sea. There they were, trapped between Pharaoh and his army behind them and the impassable Red Sea before them. There was nothing on the human menu of possible solutions. The only choices were to either totally trust God or just give up. Moses chose the ever-available-God option, and what a surprise! The waters of the sea parted, and the children of Israel walked through on dry ground (see Exodus, chapter 14).
With that example before us, we can never feel that there is no solution to our problems. We just have to let go of anxiety about the situation completely, take our hands off the wheel, so to speak, and subordinate the human ego to the divine Mind who creates, governs, and reveals all. In God’s eyes, there was never inharmony in the first place, since in the beginning He created all in perfect harmony. The difficulty only exists within a limited, human view of things, and when we are lifted out of that finite mentality, we are lifted out of the trouble at the same time.
This is explained in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, where Mary Baker Eddy writes, “It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony” ( p. 390).
And where does this understanding come from? I’ll give you a hint: not from us. Science and Health explains: “Spirit imparts the understanding which uplifts consciousness and leads into all truth” ( p. 505).
So why go through all the merely human ways and means of thinking about and meeting life’s challenges? Instead, why not follow Jesus’ teaching, when he said, “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving” (Matthew 6:33, The Message). Try it. You’ll be delightfully surprised.