Whenever my plans don’t turn out the way I wanted, one of my favorite things to say is, “Life’s what happens when you’re making other plans.” Until recently, I didn’t know John Lennon said it first, I just knew it was my flip way to acknowledge that sometimes, despite our best plans and intentions, life doesn’t go the way you want it to go. In other words, to quote Mick Jagger, “You can’t always get what you want.” Or like The Police said, “‘De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,’ is all I want to say to you.” That last one made no sense, but I was trying to stick with the theme.
Recently, I saw a different, deeper meaning to my “other plans” refrain. I meet regularly with a group of mom friends from my Classical Conversations homeschool group to “talk story,” encourage each other, pray for one another, and to do life together. We have been working our way through my pastor’s latest book, Jesus Pure & Simple.
Chapter 10 is about “Living Life Along the Way.” At the beginning of the chapter, Pastor Wayne talks about the time he was scheduled to lead worship at the mid-week service at church. To make the most of his time, he decided to practice his guitar in a local park rather than make the drive all the way back to his home. (If you’ve ever driven in Honolulu you understand why driving anywhere is usually not the most efficient use of your time.) In the park, he met a homeless man. Knowing he didn’t have a lot of time to spare, he really didn’t want to engage him, but when the man told him he was just learning the ukulele and asked if he wanted to play together for a little while, Pastor Wayne decided to stay a few extra minutes. He didn’t really want to and had plenty of other things he felt he needed to do with that time, but reluctantly he agreed.
As they played together, they began a conversation that led to a discussion about Jesus. Nothing overly deep or theological, just a basic introduction to who Jesus is and how He related to this man’s life. Eventually Pastor Wayne left and went on about his day, but the next week he went back to the same park with his guitar. He didn’t see his new friend, but he saw another man who said he remembered Pastor Wayne from when he played guitar with “Smitty.” The man told Pastor Wayne that Smitty had died a few days earlier from a massive heart attack.
Pastor Wayne realized that while he thought he was supposed to be preparing to lead worship at church, God had something else in mind. His main job that day was to talk to Smitty about Jesus.
“Life happened along the way….”
In that chapter, Pastor Wayne points out a few of the instances in Jesus’s ministry on earth where important acts happened along the way. The woman with the hemorrhage who touched Jesus’s garment when he was on the way to heal Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:21-43). The lepers who were healed on the way to show themselves to the priest (Luke 17:11-19). The woman at the well that Jesus met when he was on the way from Galilee down to Jerusalem.
As I was reading, I realized that often what I see as a hindrance to my plans may be what God had planned for me all along. Instead of huffing and puffing because I didn’t get my way, I want to start looking at these interruptions or detours as opportunities that I don’t want to miss.
Perhaps a cancelled event is actually unexpected free time at home with my family. Gridlock on the highway can lead to an impromptu sing-along with the kids, complete with our own crazy versions of the lyrics. (It’s not, “Whoa, my bread is on fire, but my eggs are fine;” it’s “Whoa, my head is on my fire, but my legs are fine.” Maybe fun. should work a little harder on enunciation.) A long line at Costco could actually be the place I’m going to meet a new friend who’s stuck waiting with me. When my plans are thwarted, maybe it’s an opportunity to model for my kids how to respond gracefully when life throws me a curveball. Maybe my plan wasn’t the actual plan after all, but just another avenue for God to get me to the place He wants me to be.
This new perspective keeps me from wallowing in the “what now!” moments of my day. Whatever the reason may be for the unexpected twists and turns, I want to be flexible enough to let go of my own agenda in order to surrender to His.
Just something to think about.