Plans, Plans, Don’t Go Away

Houston, Texas, has had more than its share of rain over the past year–bringing at least two major floods and many localized street floodings. And, by my personally-affected count, six scheduled events blocked by rising water, lightning, or a calculated risk of either.

What I find most surprising and annoying is that of all those events (some of which were months in the planning), none bothered to have a “rain date” handy, and exactly one has made any attempt to scrape up a substitute. The others have all consigned their plans to the pile of “Oh well, there’ll be another one next month/quarter/year.”

Maybe I’m being unreasonable (heaven knows I frequently am), but I put that approach in the same “inexcusable” file as any promise broken with the attitude that it’s the disappointed parties’ tough luck. So far as I know, schools haven’t cancelled any tests for being originally scheduled on the day of a flood, nor has the IRS said “Oh, just don’t bother paying anything this year” to anyone who couldn’t mail a tax return because high water blocked the way to post offices on the deadline date. Why should it be acceptable to discount a promise, and discard everyone’s hard work, just because (presumably) no one will lose anything except a good time?

Still, even I have to acknowledge that sometimes cancellations or indefinite postponements are inevitable. Major accidents do land key participants in long-term medical care. Fires and tornadoes do destroy buildings the night before their planned openings. It is conceivable that anything from a government collapse to a nuclear holocaust to the Second Coming could put an end to life as we know it before today’s five- and ten-year plans come to fruition.

However conscientious we may be, we can never arm ourselves against every contingency, plan to avoid every disaster, or cast the deciding vote on every controversial decision. The craving to “fix” that fact is as old as humanity; St. James knew as much when, some 2,000 years ago, he wrote, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16, NIV).

We may resolve to accept life’s inevitable disappointments without arguing or fuming. We may even develop the habit of adding “Lord willing” when announcing our plans. But how many of us are humble enough to apply the label evil to the idea of making (and counting on) plans without seriously considering the Lord’s will? Foolish, yes. Wrong, perhaps. But so sinful as to be lumped with the diabolic, with a term we usually reserve for the worst of hatred, violence, and arrogance?

Actually, yes–anything less than acknowledging God’s right to “mess up” our plans at will is arrogance, and arrogance is the original sin, the attitude that can look God in the face and say, “I don’t care what Your will is, I have just as much right to my will! I will take control of my own world, I will expect all things to go according to my plan, I will count myself Your equal!”

While most people–certainly most Christians–are horrified to hear it put so bluntly, we say it in our behavior every time we become angry at spoiled plans or try to pretend changed circumstances don’t exist. I wonder how many in Noah’s time, long since having rejected God entirely, obstinately kept working at their plans even as rising waters lapped at their ankles? It regularly happens here on a small scale–cars stuck in three-feet-and-deeper water because people insisted on driving into roads-turned-rivers rather than admit their schedules had been overruled. Sometimes, these stubborn souls don’t make it out of their cars and are found drowned at the wheel. At best, they have plenty of time to reflect on the wisdom of accepting lesser inconveniences early on.

I may not know best whether every planned event deserves a rain date. But I hope I can learn the wisdom and peace of mind that comes with accepting God’s plans, even when they hurt, as best.

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2 Comments

  1. janetanncollins

     /  May 20, 2016

    I wish there were a way you could send some of your extra water our way. Too bad they can’t transport it to us in tanker trucks or by plane. In Northern California we had a normal amount of rain this year, but we’re still way under what’s needed to make up for all the drought years, and we don’t know how next Winter will be.

    Reply
  2. Jo Swank

     /  May 24, 2016

    More good wisdom, Kathy. Thank you!

    Reply

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