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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Surprised (09/06/07)

TITLE: Surprised by His Love
By Susan Johnstone


I was pretty hard to surprise. As a typical troubled teenager, I was cynical and negative. I felt that I had ‘been there – done that’ and had the T-shirt to prove it. I had grown up feeling like everyone around me had either let me down or taken advantage of me. I was tired of being a victim, and so I developed a hard shell of cutting humour and disregard for others. I dismissed my friends and walked out of school at the slightest provocation; I didn’t need any hassle and had no tolerance for it.

The times I did stay at school, I sat up the back of class with my friend Bevan, passing judgement on all the others - the poor misguided fools. We thought we had it all figured out – we could see through the hype and pretence of consumerism, with its propaganda of brand identity; we were immune to peer pressure and saw through the idealistic claims made by pious religions. We were individuals. We weren’t scared to stand up and say what we really thought.

I didn’t have much positive to say though. My home life seemed joyless. I lived alone with my mother, after my older sister had moved out to live with her boyfriend. Mum worked odd hours as a cleaner at businesses and when she was home, she was either washing her cleaning rags or sleeping. I was left to take care of myself, living on cereal, junk food and tinned spaghetti. I napped in the afternoon and went for a jog late at night, padding along the dim streets, mentally daring anyone to attack me. In the early hours of the morning I did my homework in front of the TV. I watched music videos and fed upon the rebellion, despair and self-absorption of the rock stars.

Inside me was a deep black hole of grief. I got drunk as a means to temporarily avoid the pain … but the fun at a party was so superficial I felt even more hollow the day after. Somewhere outside of my current existence, I thought I could find genuine happiness. I planned to travel around the country after I’d finished school and have the sort of adventures I’d seen on television and in the movies.

In contrast to all my inner turmoil, the city I lived in was hosting World Expo. This meant a boom for local businesses, a way to promote what we had to offer, and of course, somewhere new and interesting to hang out for us teens. Many different groups targeted the crowds with brochures and information on whatever they were trying to promote.

One evening I walked across the bridge to Southbank, the site of Expo. Someone was standing in the middle of the flow of people, handing out flyers. Automatically, I took what was shoved in my hand and continued on my way. During the night, I took a proper look at this leaflet and saw it was a religious tract explaining the Bible verse of John 3:16.

As I read it, I was surprised… I was amazed! To think that God, who made the world, actually loved me – regardless of who I was or what I did. His love for me was so great that He sent His Son to die for me! I didn’t need convincing that I was a sinner who needed redemption. I knew the evil thoughts festering in my heart, and the fears that no-one would like me if they discovered how rotten I was in my core. Now here was a great God who would not let me down. I could trust this God not to spread gossip about me, for He held me in the highest regard. Here was a God who would love me in happy times as well as sad times… someone who would support me to reach my potential. This was a God who would be my ever-present parent, to guide and protect me, something I was yearning for.

What a friend! What a lover! I ached to believe this message of hope; I desperately needed to believe it. Without God I knew I was on a fast train to self-destruction. The surprise of such awesome grace resonated within me and I slowly turned my life around, learning more about my Saviour. Now I really had a future to look forward to, all because God cared to surprise me with His love.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 09/16/07
I felt as if I could hear this testimony spoken aloud as I read this. Excellent!
Laury Hubrich 09/17/07
I love your last line -- "all because God cared to surprise me with His love." That is the greatest surprise of all time.
Dee Yoder 09/18/07
This is indeed a wonderful testimony to the power of God's love and mercy! You have a real voice, in this entry, that speaks to the heart.