How many times do you feel like you have a plan for something and then, “BAM,” something happens and your plan is thwarted? I’m sure it will come as no surprise to those of you that know me, I am a planner! You’ll rarely see me without my navy blue leather-esque DayMinder and I’m quick to say, “Let me check my calendar” when someone is asking for a meeting. I, and a few others out there, go by the adage, “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.” However, my plans can sometimes get messed up when someone doesn’t show up for a meeting, when I get stuck somewhere longer than I think it will take, or when the sky dumps 10-12” of snow in the matter of a few hours! Conversely, some of you are saying, “That’s exactly why I don’t make plans! You just gotta go with the flow.” Your adage is, “Don’t worry…it’ll all work out!”
Well, when it comes to planning, we’ve got to hold the two opposing ideas in tension. Those of us who are planners have to learn to relax and rest in the assurance that if our plans get messed up, we are going to have to make a Plan B (which we can learn how to do by watching those who aren’t planners). Those who are, shall I say, more spontaneous, have to learn to work with us planners, which may mean that they need to start that project more than a few days before it is due (which you can learn to do by watching us planners). Holding these two in tension can be seen through this familiar proverb: “The human mind plans the way, but the Lord determines the steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) We as humans make our plans, but ultimately it is God who enables our plans to come to fruition…or not. While we may think we’re doing the bulk of the work in making our plans, it is only by God’s grace that we are able to do what we’re doing. And as Christians, whatever we do is for God’s glory anyway.
We had a recent snow storm was an example of what I’m talking about. A group of my students began months ago planning the way for Ground Zero, a “Freedom in Worship” night that would be held on campus. They prayed, they practiced, they planned, they made a Facebook event and they even fasted. And 12 hours before the worship event would happen, the sky opened up and started blowing down snow. Now a little snow is awesome…slide down the hill that Southwestern is famous for and show all those students from Texas some fun like they’ve never had before! Even getting out of class is a fun little treat. But they were planning an event for nearly a hundred people and it was awfully cold and slippery! And I hate to bring up the fact that many of them had been praying and fasting and dreaming of this worship experience for months. Didn’t God plant these prayers and dreams in their hearts? Sure he did, so why did their plans get thwarted? Though it is frustrating when our plans seem to fall through, we must learn that though we spend our time planning, ultimately God is the one who opens doors and closes them, and it’s all for his glory anyway. Despite the seriously inclement weather, nearly 80 people ventured out to worship together! Were there some that did not attend, probably, but was God, our most honored guest in attendance? Absolutely! We made plans in our hearts, which did not include 12 inches of snow, but God determined our steps. It cost people something to leave their warm dorm rooms or apartments. But what we gained was worth far more than anything that it could have cost us. We had an awesome time of worship together and we saw what happens when God’s faithful people come together.
That snowstorm gave us all a time to stop, not because we wanted to, but because we had to…we had no other choice. I even went home early and set out to work from home for the afternoon. Some students probably went sledding, others had a major snowball fight, and maybe a precious few actually worked on homework since Finals is just around the corner! But regardless, we all slowed down, we ate whatever food we had on hand, and we did what we needed to do. I must admit, despite my frustration early in the afternoon that I couldn’t get everything done that I had planned to do, I went home, worked a little, fixed a pot of chili for myself for dinner, shoveled some snow, and enjoyed the interruption. No, I didn’t make the phone calls that I had planned to make and I didn’t get to be as productive as I had wanted to be, but ultimately I thanked God for the beautiful stillness of a (thick) blanket of snow and the silence of my little home. I enjoyed shoveling the snow from my driveway since it meant that I didn’t have to go work out and I prayed for those that felt the loneliness of being stuck at home. No, I didn’t plan to spend the afternoon at home, but God determined my steps that day, and my steps ended in snowy footprints that forced me to stop. I was forced to lay down my plans and submit to God’s plans, and if that isn’t glorifying to God, I don’t know what is.