When I ask friends out to lunch, I ask them to pick a second date too. That way, in case something unexpected comes up for one of us, we have another date to fall back on. I learned long ago, when making plans, it’s always good to have a Plan B, just in case something makes Plan A impossible.
I have never kept track of how many times I’ve had to resort to Plan B (or even Plan C!), but it is fairly often. My plans don’t always go as I want them to—in both small and big ways. In high school I planned on eventually becoming a teacher, marrying some nice guy, and having four kids. Instead, I felt God leading me to become a Sister of Notre Dame. As an SND, I planned on teaching high school for most of my life, only to be asked to leave the classroom and to serve as novice director, then in leadership for my congregation, and eventually into retreat and writing ministries. As John Lennon supposedly remarked, “If you want to make God laugh, just tell God your plans.”
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t make plans, of course. After all, planning is one way we channel our time, energy, and talents into activities that are necessary, worthwhile, and helpful to others. We plan many things: our daily schedule, our work, meals, household chores, errands, parties, liturgical celebrations, vacations. But when we make plans, we should not be so wedded to them that we become totally discombobulated when things don’t go as we planned.
Scripture is filled with stories of individuals whom God asked to change their plans in major ways. In doing so, they were the better for it—and so were we! Sarah and Abram were an elderly couple in Ur, probably enjoying their retirement years. But God asked them to change their plans by uprooting their lives and trekking to an unknown land far away. Moses planned on hiding from the Egyptians, because he had killed one of them. But God asked him to go back not only to Egypt, but to Pharaoh himself and to eventually lead the Israelites out of their slavery. Mary was planning on marrying Joseph and living a quiet life in an ordinary town. But God asked her to radically alter her plans and become the mother of “the Most High.”
Jesus was someone whose plans seemed to change or evolve during his life. As a young man did he plan on becoming a carpenter like his dad? We can only imagine how his intimate relationship with Abba led him to embrace a life as an itinerant religious preacher instead. In Gethsemane, it’s clear that Jesus’ plan did NOT include crucifixion, yet he accepted even death on a cross as part of God’s plan for him.
What makes it so hard for us to change our plans at times? For one thing, being forced to change our plans reminds us how little control we have over our lives. And not being in control can be disturbing for many of us. But our faith reassures us that our lives are in God’s loving hands—whether we are enjoying Plan A, or whether we have had to resort to Plan B, C, D, or another letter of the alphabet!
Here are a few questions for your reflection:
List some aspects of your life that have gone as you planned.
List some aspects of your life that did not go as you planned.
Has a change in your plans ever been a real blessing for you?
PS: My blog is being updated with a new look soon! At the same, some of the problems with readers not being able to subscribe and/or leave comments will be fixed. The blog might be “down” for a few days soon to accomplish this—just so you know. Meanwhile, I’ll keep writing and posting these reflections every Monday. Thank you for reading “Sunflower Seeds.” I appreciate each one of you!
I chose a song by “Casting Crowns” called “The Change in Me.” I like the various and beautiful images of God’s Spirit in this song. God’s Spirit is a gentleman… a wrecking ball.. a whispering… a holy flame… the air I breathe… the life in me… the change in me.
I would love to hear from you below—especially some examples from your own life where you got Plan A and those times you had to resort to Plan B and beyond. Also, I’d love to know if a change in your plans ever proved to be a real blessing for you!