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Sarah Dean

Surprise! Your entire family and friends just jumped out from behind the furniture as you arrived home and turned on the light. You realise to your relief that this isn't an intervention to address your ongoing issues with buying 1980s Star Wars figures online while drunk (I just need an original Gonk Droid) because the room is festooned with bunting, balloons and a banner reading Happy Birthday! or somesuch. We've all been there haven't we? Good times! Surprising someone is the definitely the best way to ensure they know you care... At least that's what scriptwriters would like us to believe. I've never been to a surprise party or had one organised for me. Either I am a terrible friend or these cliches are just a handy plot device. In real life your partner gets a new job, you mark the occasion by buying the £7.99 rather than the £5.99 Pinot Grigio on the way home, for an unsurprising party for two slumped in front of the Good Wife. Plus when trying to stage elaborate surprises, there is a fine line between the person being surprised being absolutely delighted or being absolutely terrified. A friend of a friend (no names to protect the deluded), decided that in order to woo the girl of his dreams, he would surprise her with an evening of romance - filling her bedroom with candles, rose petals scattered on every surface, music playing, champagne on ice and our hero dressed in a tux perched on the bed, waiting for her arrival home when he would finally declare his feelings and say those three little words. The reality was the dinner jacket he borrowed from a friend stank of BO; and he was shocked to discover the price of roses, so got daffodils instead. As not many of the flowers were open, the room looked like someone scattered every surface with spring onions; and there was glass all over the floor as he had mixed up what time her housemates could let him in, so he had ended up breaking in. The evening ended with three little words - Get out now. Likewise another friend tells of the time her boyfriend arranged a surprise date. He described it as 'the date to end all dates' but refused to give any hint or respond to her guesses. Five star restaurant? First class on the Eurostar? Couples spa day? He just said 'You are going to love it'. When she asked if she could know the dress code so she could plan what to wear, he paused and said 'Wear jeans'. This led her to conclude a walk in the country - nice. It turned out to be a tandem parachute jump. The boyfriend was right on two counts -it could have been the date to end all dates, (you sign that waiver for a reason) and she was surprised to admit, she did love it. In his book God of Surprises, the Jesuit Priest Gerard Hughes says 'Surprise can be a sign that we are encountering the living Christ...We meet God smiling at us in our bewilderment, beckoning us in our confusions...' The thing with God's surprises is he isn't motivated by the need to move the plot forward or restricted by real life logistics. Simply he knows us better than we know ourselves, so we can trust him and what he has planned. So if he suggests you step out in the equivalent of a tandem skydive, I say go with it, even if you aren't wearing jeans