18 May NOT According to Plan
Have you ever had a day that goes nothing at all like you planned? Not a single thing that you thought you were going to accomplish gets done. At bedtime, your “to do” list looks exactly like it did at breakfast. That’s the kind of day I had today.
Do you think it’s just a coincidence that when I journaled this morning I gave thanks for the day “whatever it might hold”? That when I left the house at 5:40 a.m. to go for a walk, I consciously attempted to practice what author Robert Wicks calls “receiving the day” as I logged my three miles? Receiving the day invites me to examine my expectations and assumptions about what the day “should” be like and instead, to open my hands and heart to receive whatever comes my way.
A “to do” list is not necessarily a bad thing. Without it, I would forget a lot of things I don’t want to forget—phone calls I need to make, tasks I need to complete in both the short and long term, repairs I need to see about. As a tool to keep me organized, it is a big help. But, sometimes I let the tool become the master. My urge to control events in my life leads me to become frustrated when things don’t go according to plan. Doggonit—I want to cross some things off my list!
Miraculously, today was different. The day spiraled totally out of my control, and I was okay with it. A person who was in crisis needed more of my time than I anticipated, and I gave it to him. A planning session for our upcoming worship services also ran long, but it was time well spent. Someone got stuck in the elevator which created far more drama in the building than I ever want to see. It seemed that I lurched from one unexpected happening to the next. Yet, God was present in every encounter, in every moment, in every unanticipated need. I distinctly sensed that each person and each situation that crossed my path was God-sent, an opening for me to practice letting God, rather than my “to do” list, direct my steps.
Don’t get me wrong, the tasks still have to be completed. No one will be happy with me if, come Sunday, the sermon is not finished. And that is why, for me, days like today become a matter of trust. If I believe God has redirected my day, do I also believe God will “redeem the time” later so that I can take care of the critical things that need doing? I’ve had some astounding experiences with redeemed time. Sometimes a meeting gets cancelled at the last minute, and that opens up just the space I need to finish a task. Sometimes I hit a creative “hot streak,” and it seems I can barely type fast enough to keep up with the words for the blog or bulletin or sermon that are spilling out. Sometimes a job gets done by someone else unexpectedly, or I realize it isn’t so critical after all and can wait.
Years ago, a wise and wonderful colleague told me, “God is in the interruptions. That’s where opportunities for ministry most often present themselves.” That piece of advice has stood me in good stead both and personally. How might it impact our families, our work environments, our churches and our culture if, instead of being irritated at the interruption that intrudes upon our day, we looked carefully for God’s presence in it? What if we saw that unexpected need as an opportunity to serve God and expand the kingdom of God? What if we put the person standing in front of us ahead of any “to do” list or any expectation of how our day is “supposed” to go? What if we used “people eyes” to assess and reassess our priorities? I can’t say for sure, of course, but I’m guessing that these are exactly the kinds of “mustard seeds” that Jesus said turns the world upside down.
Yours for the Kingdom,