You know the saying: “We plan; God laughs.” I’m not big on anthropomorphic imagery for the Divine, but I sure get the idea. I’ve learned over and over again that my big ideas and plans can be changed at any time by God, Goddess, Spirit, the Universe, the Tao, the Holy One – however you want to name the creative force at loose in the world. Years ago, all the church growth gurus were telling us that we had to have a long-range plan in order to be a “successful” church. Personal growth gurus were peddling the same advice, asking: “Where do you want to be in 5 years? In 10 years?” A book title said it all: If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You’ll Probably End Up Someplace Else.
Now believe me, as an Uber-One on the Enneagram, I love making plans, creating agendas, checking things off to-do lists. But in so many ways, in spite of thinking that I knew where I was going – both personally and professionally – I have ended up someplace else. And God laughs – because it’s all better than what I had so carefully mapped out.
My favorite “God laughs” story is from my pre-seminary days. I had just gotten a new job at Westminster Press as a result of my Big Plan to get into publishing after working in retail bookselling for many years. Visiting former coworkers back at the bookstore, I crowed about my cushy new 9-5, Monday-Friday hours: ”I will never have to work on Sunday again!”
Can’t you just hear the Divine giggles?
And now it seems that my congregation is being pulled into a new kind of ministry. Not only are we continuing to live into this new Lutheran/Episcopal partnership, we’re also being offered an opportunity to be part of a new outreach to the “Nones.” At the same time, I’m feeling called to get serious about writing my book.
None of this was my plan. But it’s all good.
I still create agendas and lists and think about where I want to be in 5 years, etc. Planning is necessary, however there is just one stipulation: when you hear God laughing, get out of the way!