Nov 11, 2014

In Good Faith: Drawing it Up

In my latest monthly In Good Faith column, I write about things that don't always go according plan. So, pretty much, life. Along with a shout-out to a certain cocktail you should consider whipping up when your boiler dies.

Drawing it Up

Things don’t always go according to plan. That’s no great newsflash to anyone who’s lived for more than, oh, about two minutes. You might have just preferred to keep that umbilical cord intact, thank you very much. But that’s just the first of a lifetime of challenges to preferred outcomes.

We tend to create a vision of how we see our lives unfolding and then it plays out the way it plays out. That’s not to say we have no control at all, but unforeseen circumstances are part of life and our ability to adapt and improvise and be flexible are often what separates personal satisfaction from bitter disappointment. 

After a busted play ends up going for a long gain, football commentators often say, with the un-nuanced irony of the ex-jock, “Well, that’s just how they drew it up.” Sometimes a pass hits a receiver in the helmet and bounces right into the hands of a teammate. Great! But you can’t put that identical play into next week’s game plan.

We don’t “draw up” things like the death of a loved one or a divorce or a child with special needs or financial instability or addiction or a mental health crisis. That’s not part of the vision for our life that we have so carefully laid out. But these things do happen and the first perfectly understandable response is often shame or anger.

The unexpected, the painful, the busted play of life is inevitable -- it’s part of the human condition. The good news for people of faith is the knowledge that God is present through it all. Standing beside us, comforting us, strengthening us, weeping with us. That doesn’t make painful things magically disappear but it gives us the confidence to move forward, however haltingly. 

The boiler at my church breathed its last this month. Great timing, right? Just as it was starting to get cold in New England, just as we were initiating the annual pledge campaign to fund our ministries for the coming year, just as...okay, there’s never a good time for the boiler to die. But we were hoping to get another couple of years out of the old beast before having to fund a new one. 

The point is, again, things don’t always work out the way you drew them up in the locker room of life. And sometimes you just have to shake your head, laugh at the absurdity of the situation, and host a Boilermaker Party to raise money for the new boiler (that’s a shot of whisky dropped into a beer, if I remember correctly from my fraternity days).

In the end it all comes down to “Is this my plan for God or God’s plan for me?” It’s human hubris to think we’re in charge of things because, frankly, we’re not. And the sooner we recognize this, the more peace and perspective we’ll have when the inevitable darker moments of our lives arise. 

So go ahead and plan. Why not channel the former Soviet Union and make a five or ten-year plan? But then take the detours that come and the obstacles that arise and live your life fully and joyfully. Even if you have to put on an extra layer when the boiler dies.

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