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When Things Don’t Go as Planned

Did you ever have things not go as you planned?

Maybe as a little kid you made great summer plans with a best friend only to find out that friend was moving away. Or, many years later, you scrimped and saved up a nest egg only to have it emptied because you lost your job. You planned your dream European vacation only to learn you can’t leave the country because someone you love developed a serious illness. You were headed to Damascus to imprison Christians only to find yourself knocked down to the ground and blinded. Saul was not planning to convert to Christianity, but God has a way of detouring our lives and interrupting our plans to invite us to embrace His plan for our lives instead.

If you want to make God laugh, make plans. That expression comes to mind often when I find my organized, type-A day getting turned upside down and backwards. It happens more in my work for the Church than it ever happened in my work for a bank and a commercial insurance carrier. It’s the nature of the Church job I think: small staff, jack-of-all-trades, no one else is on staff to do it, and most importantly, it’s a job that revolves around people. When people interrupt my plans, I try to turn from feeling inconvenienced to looking for the opportunity God has placed in my path to do His will.

Conversion is an on-going thing; every priest and theologian will tell you that. Part of conversion is letting God break our spirit of independence and self-reliance so He can use us to do His will. St. Maximillian Kolbe, in his consecration to Mary, talks about wanting to be an instrument for the conversion of souls. We can’t become that instrument if we have rigid plans that won’t allow us to be played.

An instrument, for instance a piano, doesn’t make music on its own. It doesn’t depress the keys in chorded harmonies or press the pedals to lengthen a beautiful note. A piano is docile and only plays the notes that are struck. It cannot sound out with notes of its’ own choosing, it simply waits for the musician to play it as he or she wills. God is the musician who can create a beautiful melody in our lives if we become the willing instrument that conforms to His playing.

Interrupting our plans doesn’t always mean God drops a new plan immediately into place for us.  As with Saul, He can abruptly derail us with an extended waiting period. Saul waited three days to be cured of his blindness, but then waited another three years in the Arabian Desert before Barnabas came to search him out to finally go on mission for the Lord. God often prepares His instruments with periods of waiting before they begin their missions or reach their promised destinations. Our plans are interrupted very suddenly but then we might sit idle, not understanding what just happened. 

We are in good company when we wait, some of our greatest ancestors in the faith waited. Noah waited through 40 days of continuous rain and then five more months more for the flood waters to recede. Abraham and Sarah waited for 25 years for the heir that God promised. Moses waited for 40 years in the desert to enter the Promised Land — and then wasn’t allowed to go in because of his pride. Joseph, the son of Jacob, spent two years in prison waiting to be released of false charges.

What does waiting do for us?  Waiting prepares us by breaking our own will, shaping our character through adversity, and developing a depth of faith in us that is needed for the exceptional work God has planned for us. The next time things don’t go as you planned and you find yourself waiting, look through a new lens and try to find what God is preparing for you. You might even say to Him, “You are doing something new, Lord, what is it? Show me what you are preparing for me.”

Things don’t always go as we planned. Sometimes, God makes them go so much better than we could ever have imagined on our own.

 

Birgitt Hacker

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