I am a planner. I set goals. I want to keep on schedule. When I exercise, I want to know how far I go, how many calories do I burn, and what is my pace. Everything is calculated. I guess that is the math/science part of my brain at work. This is great for being productive and organized. However, it leads to great anxiety when the data is skimpy and I can’t work out an algorithm to model what comes next.
The problem comes when I forget that God is the lead engineer on this project. He doesn’t give me the big picture. I am just a subcontractor. He sets me up with one task. Before I expand this task or push on to another I need to check in with God to make sure I am following His blueprint. Sometimes I get carried away, thinking that I have the master plan all figured out, and just keep going my merry way. Of course that means I usually run into a solid wall where I think there should be a door and I realize I wasn’t following God’s instructions at all.
We are reminded of this in today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles:
While they were worshiping the Lord and Fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.
The early Christians didn’t have the big picture. They weren’t making plans for a Church that would last 2000 years. They were seeking moment by moment the will of God. I am not advocating giving up planning for the future. I am saying that we cannot become slaves to our plans. We need to be open to tweaking them as God directs us.
Twenty-five years ago I was certain I was going to become an OB/GYN physician. I loved promoting women’s health. I felt I could relate to women patients on so many levels. It just seemed like the perfect fit. I could do so much good there. Then my husband’s Air Force assignment took him to a remote base with no OB/GYN residency programs in the area. There was a family practice residency in the nearby town. Did God want me to be an OB/GYN or was that my plan? After much consternation, frustration, and finally prayer, I realized my vocation was marriage. Practicing medicine was my career. I felt living apart for four years so I could study OB/GYN was too big a compromise for my vocation as a wife. I chose to live with my husband and study family medicine. And of course, it turned out to be the best thing I could have done. Training in family medicine offered so many more opportunities as we traveled around the country from Air Force assignment to Air Force assignment.
I look back and can cite countless other instances when my plans were stymied but God’s plan rolled along smoothly. The truth is my view of the future is only a guess. It is certainly colored by wishful and willful thinking. It is very tempting to use my prayers as a sort of progress report to inform God how things are going and what I plan to do next. Instead, I need to surrender my plans and just ask God, “What next?”