Does your life go just the way you had it planned? Mine sure doesn’t. The question is, how do you respond when your plans change? Or maybe better said, how do you respond when your plans get changed?
I recently returned from a 20-day vacation to the American West with my wife and 3 adult children. (Now you know why I haven’t been posting anything over the past several weeks.) We’ve dreamed about and have been planning a trip like this for years and finally all the stars aligned to make it possible. We drove 5,000 miles (Yes, that’s 5 with 3 zeros!) and were privileged to enjoy the rugged beauty of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. All in all it was a fantastic, memory-making trip of a lifetime for us.
But we also had our fair share of hiccups along the way . . . primarily in the area of vehicle challenges with the vintage 1973 motor home we inherited from my in-laws. Both before we left and occasionally throughout the trip, we encountered obstacles that we had to overcome. At times I had visions of our adventure becoming a sadistically laughable tag line for yet another Chevy Chase/National Lampoon vacation movie gone bad.
Prior to the trip, the old machine spend over a month in the shop to diagnose and fix a faulty electrical system. After getting the green light to go, we subsequently blew a power steering hose as we were literally pulling out of the drive way. I’m not kidding! I envisioned our trip draining out with the fluid leaking all over the road. We quickly rushed to the garage and begged our mechanic to craft a new hose (because, of course, you can’t find a hose at the local parts store for a 1973 motor home on short notice). Masterfully he completed the task the same day and twelve hours later than we’d planned we again departed on our long anticipated adventure . . . before something else could go wrong and scuttle the whole dream.
We encountered several additional “mechanical” challenges along the way (like a broken alternator one day out and a faulty battery connection that stopped us dead in our tracks for a couple of hours when we were just 10 hours from home). But, those are only part of the story.
We returned on schedule and I had visions of blogging about all the things God had inspired me to write about and share with you all . . . and then my plans were changed.
I had allowed for a couple days at home to take care of unpacking and cleaning up the home front prior to getting back into the saddle at the office (pardon the shameless western metaphor but I couldn’t resist). Much was needed after being gone almost 3 weeks–mowing the overgrown lawn, repairing the motor home, weeding the 3-foot high weeds that were threatening to totally overrun my vegetable garden. Sunday afternoon I bent over to pick up a bolt that had fallen to the floor in my garage. I tried to straighten back up but couldn’t. Ouch! Literally! The familiar sharp pain in my lower back told me I was in trouble. Shoot! That’s not what I had planned.
I’m not unfamiliar to back pain. Six years ago I went down with a bulging disk in my low back. It took 6 months to rehab it. While this present pain was not as bad, it was another warning bow shot that I had been neglecting to take care of my body during vacation. Now it was time to pay the price and there was no discussion about it.
So what do you feel when your plans are foiled? I must confess that quite often the first place I go is frustration. “Awe come on! No! Not now! I’ve got too much to do!” My response can quickly dissolve into complaint that morphs into anger and then sinks into despair. “Fine. Forget it! Why bother? It never works out anyway!”
Fortunately, I don’t stay there as long as I use to. And thankfully, God has been patient with my slow growth. Being willing to ask, “Okay, God, what are you up to now?” has been a major shift in my heart and demeanor. Back pain has been used of God to force me to “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10).
In times of disappointment, struggle, pain, and changes in my well-laid plans, a belief that has grown into a deep and abiding conviction over the years is this simple but reassuring truth: God is up to something good all the time no matter what. Whether I feel it, see it, or experience it at the moment, doesn’t change the reality that God is always involved and at work in all the details of our lives. I believe that. And that sure helps me handle the changes of plans that get thrown my direction.
So how about you? I’d love to hear how you’ve battled, struggled, and worked through your response to game-changing plans in your life.