Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Getting back to that five-year plan ....

Or, "What's Rick Blaine doing now?"

A few days back, in this post, I talked about being cornered one day in the office in which I worked in another life, and being asked, "What's your five-year plan?" I didn't have a five-year plan, and I couldn't even begin to imagine one. And it turns out that my Blaine-ish ways weren't really so off the mark, because even if I'd drafted, proposed and attempted to execute a perfectly constructed five-year plan, it would have looked nothing like the way things eventually unfolded for me.

I ended the post with:
My point is that I can make all the plans my organized little heart desires, but God (as I now call Him) can force me into flexibility at a moment's notice.

So, given that reality, should we stop making plans altogether?

Then, in the comments, Willa beautifully summed up what I was leading up to. She said:

My thought is that you keep planning, but that like with everything else, you hold on to the plans loosely and keep in mind what the plans are for.

I always think of St Francis of Assisi, who planned to be a soldier, and planned to build a church. It wasn't that his plans became a joke, or irrelevant, it was that they were fulfilled -- consummated? -- in a unique way.

Karen, like your life, mine has been so full of unexpected, grace-filled twists and turns that I can relate to everything you say.
Yes! That's it!

I was thinking, too, of St. Therese of Lisieux, who wanted to be a missionary. As I wrote in the essay mentioned here (which I called "The Little Way of a Little Family"), St. Therese's dream was also fulfilled in a unique way. I wrote:
St. Therese had big dreams. She wanted to be a missionary, evangelizing the whole world. Instead, she was given a short, hidden life, full of mundane little tasks in the convent, tasks she learned to do with great love. And now, this Doctor of the Church is evangelizing the whole world through her intercession from heaven.
Most of the time, we don't have a clue, do we? God is too big, too cunning and crafty for us to outguess Him, dodge Him, or stay one step ahead of Him. Oh, sure, occasionally He lets us coast along, thinking we're in control, but it's usually a set-up. A grand one, I'll grant you, and a really well thought out one, too. And one with great results, because He's -- you know -- God. He's good like that. But it's still a set-up, because suddenly - bam! - we can't help but think, "Whoosh ... never saw that one coming."

And, so back to the question I asked myself: "Does that mean we should stop making plans altogether?"

If the answer were "yes" I'd have to get pretty irritated with God. After all, He's the one who gave me this affection for planning. To never be able to use it? That would be a cruel joke. Having left Rick Blaine in the dust, I do now plan beyond next week.

I plan ahead for a school year. I look vaguely ahead, two or three years, down the academic roads I expect us to travel. We plan for the kids' college and for our retirement (oooh, wait ... we may have to pick one or the other ... Sorry, kids.)

So, I plan. For things big and little, I plan.

But, what I strive not to do is to worry about the plans. Because, if God chooses to change them, or to allow them to change, I know -- I believe it down to my core -- that it will be for my good.

So, I happily plan away. And, I think God nods his wise head, full of affection for my silly attempts at control; I think He feels the same rush of love that I feel for my daughters when they do something that is immensely cute but utterly useless or destined to fail, something that I find so incredibly endearing that it makes me want to squash them with a hug. I don't love them any less for doing those things. I actually love them more, and I like to think that God loves us more, too, in the same way.

I picture God the Father nudging Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and saying, "Look! Aren't they cute, those little people We made? They're using all the faculties We gave them. Well, bless their little hearts. And prudence! Hey, they're actually putting it to use. Now, that's something a Father can be proud of. Huh. Sure will be hard to crush them when this plan falls apart [much nodding of Divine Heads at this] but, oh, well ... A God's gotta do what a God's gotta do, eh?"

And then, the Trinity shares a good laugh at my expense.

But, that's okay. It's a laugh that shakes me to the core and then somehow, every time, rebuilds me from the inside out.

Because that's what God is all about. Making me new.

"Behold, I make all things new." -- Revelation 21:5

And that includes my plans.

So ... what's my five year plan?

To keep planning, to keep letting go when I must, and to keep allowing God to make me new.

'Cause He's good like that.


The Bookworm said...

Oh boy, do I relate! If you had told me two years ago that I would have Little Cherub, or three months ago that both older girls would be going to school ... but God's plans are better than mine!

Cheryl said...

I like your visual of God watching us, His little children.

Anonymous said...

Dear Karen,

Thank you for your thoughts about the five-year plan. Sometimes I'm lucky if I've got a five-minute plan! I especially enjoyed your mention of St. Therese of Lisieux. Did you know that (relative to the possibility of going to the Carmel in Vietnam) she wrote "If God changes His mind, we shall change ours also; that is certain!" Please do me the favor of visiting my new Web site about her at http://thereseoflisieux.org. All good wishes, Maureen