Saturday, August 28, 2010
NOTE: I started this a few weeks ago but just now finished it, so it's not really the most recent.
I'm so sorry for not posting anything for a while. You can stop your worrying, I'm still alive and in one piece. It's not even that I've been that busy; I was just fully embracing the summer vacation and taking some much needed time to relax and retreat from doing anything "official" (and somehow blogging fell into that category).
Sorry to say, this entry isn't really going to update you too much on my adventures. I'll try to get another one out soon (maybe even later tonight) that has more details about what I've been up to for the past few months. This one is more of a reflection.
I think it's funny how obsessed people are with planning things. To a degree, it makes sense. We need to know when important things are going to happen so we make sure not to miss them, so we can connect with people we really need to talk to, and so we can prepare for the future. I'm training a girl to run a marathon with me in Jerusalem in March. We need to have a training plan. To show up on the day of the race without having worked up to a run over that kind of distance would be a really foolish thing to do. As a future doctor (Lord willing), I've had to plan a lot: what classes to take, what kind of extra-curriculars to get involved in, when to take the MCATs, when to apply, etc, etc. If I hadn't thought about those things beforehand, there's little to no chance that I'd be in med school.
But sometimes I wonder how much we actually lose out on because we are so insistent on planning, on being in control, and how much grief we could avoid if we weren't so insistent on our plans. Case in point: Keiko and I are moving to a new place. We were originally told that we would be able to move in on the 15th of this month. That then got moved back to the 1st of September, and then thankfully back up to this weekend. We need to be out of our current place by the 31st of August at 8pm, so those few hours of potential homelessness were a little unnerving considering we would have an apartment's worth of stuff with no where to put it. Anyway, we made our plans around being able to move all of our stuff over today. Ends up the current family in our new place isn't getting the moving truck until tomorrow morning, meaning that we have another day of living in a boxed/bagged/suitcased-up apartment that looks more like a storage container than a living space. It's frustrating because we have other things going on this week, like class, important meetings, and painting our current place, that need to be seen to. Our plans for moving today failed, and now our carefully planned Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday are having to be reworked. It's frustrating and disappointing, and a bit stressful.
When our plans, big or small, fall through, it shows how much we hate losing control. We're finite beings, and as much as we (especially kids and those in their 20s and even 30s) like to think that we're invincible, we know we aren't. We know that one day we will die, whether or not we want to, and chances are we won't have charge over when that day and time will be. To cope with that harrowing thought we subconsciously do whatever we can to order the rest of our lives. It's not that every time our plans fall through we're confronted with our mortality, but we are reminded that we can't control everything no matter how hard we try.
One thing I've learned over the years, especially during my summers in Botswana, is that sometimes you just have to roll with the punches, and when you do, things work out much, much better than you could have ever planned yourself. The reason I ended up in Botswana in the first place was because other plans I was making for the summer fell through and the opportunity to go there just kinda popped up. And the result was one of the best, and hardest, few months of my life. Rarely did things work the way we expected them to, but once we let go of our plans and surrendered every hour of every day to God, we began to see real fruit in our lives and in the lives of those we were ministering to. It's not like we just woke up every morning and wandered out to see where we would end up; we still tried to organize things here and there, but we let go of that frustration for when things would fall through. When we would teach the kids we would prepare lessons, but if we didn't get as far as we intended to or even ended up on another topic altogether because the kids had questions or we felt the Spirit holding us in one place, we were fine-happy even--with that.
The thing is, even if all of our plans and ambitions did come to fruition, the result would be disappointing. There's a certain beauty in the unexpected if you let go of the frustration that often comes with it. Like today: if things would have happened as I had planned, I'd be moving tons of boxes right now, sweating up a storm and probably stressing out over something. But instead, I'm getting to sit here and reflect. I was able to take a nap this afternoon and had some really fun dreams. Keiko and I have gotten to play with 2 kittens we adopted off of the street last night. The people that are moving out of our new place are getting to have a dinner there together as a family. So I'm stuck in an apartment that's a disaster area for another night. So what?
Some of my favorite stories in the Bible are those where God really shows that His weakness is stronger than men's strength and His foolishness is wiser than men's wisdom. Take Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Peter, Paul, and so many more. They had their own plans and understandings of how things should work. God shook those up and used them for something so much greater than themselves. And the thing that really gets me is that God didn't take them to a place where they were half dependent on God and still half dependent on themselves; He took them to a place where they were totally dependent on Him.
Abraham was told to leave his land and his family to be more or less a sojourner for the rest of his life. Whatever his plans had been for his life up until that point were crushed. Then he was promised a son from his wife Sarah. When that seemed impossible he tried to take things into his own hands and had Ishmael with Hagar, Sarah's servant. But that wasn't God's plan for the promised son, and at age 100 (way passed the point when he or Sarah could by all human understanding have a child) God gave him Isaac through Sarah.
Then you have Joseph who was loved by his father and had a promising life ahead of him. Then he was sold into slavery by his brothers. His ticket out was to do the impossible: interpret Pharaoh's dream that no one else in the land had been able to interpret. Now this interpreting wasn't just coming up with a metaphor to back some of the things that had been in the dream. It was to tell Pharaoh what the dream was and then to give an interpretation. Impossible without God, and something that would never go down in our self-dependent and ordered lives.
Then there's Moses, who tried to free the Hebrews in his own power and failed horribly. The result: this man who had the world at his finger tips having been raised in the Pharaoh's house was cast out into the wilderness. In the world's eyes, he lost everything. Remarkably he survived and even made a life for himself outside of Egypt, but then God shook everything up again with the burning bush and the commissioning to go back to Egypt and free the Hebrews. If Moses would have planned things, Aaron would have been the leader. After all, he had all of the qualities of a good leader in Moses' eyes. But that wasn't God's plan, and once back in Egypt, the things Moses did could not be done in man's power alone.
Peter was supposed to be a fisherman. It was the family business. Then Jesus came along and completely changed everything. He became the student of one of the most revolutionary teachers the Israelites had ever seen. He and the other disciples learned that this Jesus didn't operate according to rational thought. This Jesus ate, sat, talked, healed, and loved those who would make him ritually unclean. He told the disciples to feed thousands with barely enough food to feed themselves. He told them that He must suffer and die in order to be raised again. And when Peter tried to "correct" Him in the world's understanding, Jesus told him "Get behind me Satan." Peter also wanted to be brave saying he wouldn't deny Jesus in His darkest hour, but (like us all too often) ended up acting in self-preservation. Then, during Pentecost, after Jesus' resurrection and ascent, everything changes. The impulsive and somewhat cowardly fisherman becomes a powerful preacher who would face persecution and eventually death for the sake of his Lord.
Finally there's Paul, formerly known as Saul. Saul was a Hebrew of Hebrews, and in the eyes of most religious Jews he had it all. He was a persecutor of the church and a keeper of the traditions and Law. I'd bet that most of his life was running right along what he had planned for it until he was struck blind by God on the way to Damascus. It was then that he encountered God and saw the true revelation of the person of Jesus Christ. His old life was gone, and Saul became Paul. After that, all plans that he had made for his life were cast aside and he spent the rest of his life traveling from city to city preaching Jesus, being persecuted, thrown in prison, and run out of town. And yet he had joy. All of his other plans he counted as refuse for the sake of knowing Christ and Him crucified. I'm amazed at how Paul lived his life. He wanted to visit different cities, but wouldn't force his way if God directed somewhere else. He was open and receptive of God's direction. I think that's where we fall short. We want something and make it happen, regardless of God's direction. If His direction fits in with our plans, we're happy. If not, we are great at coming up with excuses for our disobedience.
Proverbs tells us:"In his heart and man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps" (16:9) and "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails" (19:21). Ultimately we do not have control, but that shouldn't be a scary thought. It should bring comfort. A good God determines our steps. The purpose of a good and faithful Father always prevails. It might not seems good to us at the time, just like my parents' plans for me to try to eat peas seemed like the worst possible torture one being could inflict on another when I was a kid, but in the larger picture, they knew the potatoes which I thought would be the best thing to eat didn't have the same nutritional value as green veggies. Now that I'm older and have eaten peas a few more times (sometimes against my will), I see that they actually are good. If my earthly father gives me good things, how can I doubt that anything less would come from my heavenly Father.
Maybe I'm still just in that "irresponsible" phase of my life where I want to live with reckless abandon...but then maybe that's more of where our hearts are supposed to be. I can't really say. I don't want my hands to be so tightly clenched around my plans, my schedule, my ideas for my life that I can't open myself up to receive the better things that God has for me. Reason tells me that there must be a balance between responsibility/logistics/planning and complete and total surrender, and in all honesty, that complete and total surrender scares me a little bit. But when I look at the people in the Bible, very few of them were "reasonable" my the world's understanding of that. For many of them, bridges were burned and backup plans were destroyed. Day by day, moment by moment, they were dependent on God, and that pleased Him. What will it take for us to have that same kind of dependence, to be satisfied with His Word being a light unto our feet and a lamp unto our path--so that we can see only the next step and not the full road ahead of us?