Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

If all goes well...

If all goes well… maybe you’ve said it as the preface to some future plan. It’s a way of saying, “if everything goes according to the plan, then I’ll reach my goal.” Maybe it’s the season of life; maybe it’s the time in history – maybe it’s the convergence of both – but I’m coming to doubt the wisdom of that saying.

Whose plan ever brings the realities of living in a fallen world into their consideration? Too many marriages evaporate in the heat of life’s contingencies. That’s never ‘according to plan’. Aging parents mean different things to different people, whether financial, or time, or emotional hardships, or sometimes all three. Add to that, the reality that stroke, or Alzheimer, or diabetes are never ‘according to plan’. And let’s not forget avalanches, and deaths at the hands of drunk drivers, and sexual abuse. What does this phrase mean: ‘according to plan’?

It seems, increasingly in my world of pastoral care, to mean very little. In fact, holding on to one’s plans too tightly seems a sure fire way to miss God’s plan, which always includes some untidy and unwelcome intrusions so that the cross can do it’s work. I think I’ve wasted a lot of energy being disappointed because my own expectation of how something would turn out was unmet due to unforeseen issues. Maybe such disappointment stems from holding on to plans too firmly. Too tight a grip means that every unforeseen event is disruption, intrusion, threat.

Maybe there’s a better paradigm: Maybe the art of life isn’t in simply meeting one’s goals, but in manifesting the character of Jesus in the midst of the effects of our fallen world; showing hope in the midst of darkness, and grace in the midst of disappointment seem to be more in keeping with the whole point of it, than merely having ‘everything go according to plan’.

It’s been an incredibly intense time pastorally and personally over the past days, and the activities aren’t over. Much, for many people, including me, has not gone ‘according to plan’. But today, as I write this, I need to say: who cares! The real point of it isn’t to live in a world hermetically sealed from suffering, but to triumph in the midst of everything that’s coming down all around us. Learning that, and helping others do it, is a big part of what it means to be a pastor.


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