plans for our lives

there’s a joke that says: if you want to make God laugh, tell God the plans you have for your life.

while i believe planning to be good and necessary, there are so many unknown factors in life that our plans always need an asterisk in bold type. rare is a person whose life plans happen as they thought they would.

my claretian brother/friend ray smith recently posted this on FB:

i had to chuckle at this pic because it is so true; it’s been true of my whole life. there are things that we think and hope will happen– then there is what happens. the coronafirus did not even exist five years ago! on a personal level, i had not planned on being in back in seattle spending my days making sure my 97 year old mother has what she needs. i am sure that you have many examples in your life too: unfulfilled expectations because of what life has thrust upon us.

i was watching john lewis’ services yesterday as he lie in state in DC– may he rest in peace. they were showing him as a young man at a protest speaking out for justice and freedom following MLK jr’s lead in the 50s. lewis is an icon for the civil rights movement and racial justice. his voice for decades has kept us on point with the pledge that leads us to say “… with liberty and justice for all.”

if you had asked john lewis in 2003 if he would ever see a black man as president, i bet he would have answered “not in my lifetime”. then, barack happened in 2008. surprises can shock us into what is really real.

so as we makes plans for our lives– where is God through it all?

there are many ways to approach a response to this question; here are some of my thoughts: before we make plans, it is good to be centered on the Holy Spirit. we trust that the Spirit will providentially lead and guide us with spiritual gifts/graces. we take seriously the words of the Lord’s prayer: “your will be done” (as opposed to “God, please do MY will”). in spanish, this is beautifully exemplified by the statement “si Dios quiere”. on our own we cannot do it, we need grace.

approaching plans and outcomes with a sense of thanksgiving is important. our hearts expand when we realize that all we are and all we have are gifts. in this framework, our plans are expressions of our hopes. even with our hopes dashed, it is possible to give God thanks for what actually happens in life– even the hurtful crosses that come our way.

with this perspective, it is possible to be open to the Spirit’s surprises in our lives and in the world. we can see our unanswered prayers as good for us! God’s plans for us can bring us MORE joy than what we had planned for ourselves. when this happens, it is pure grace. then there is more for which to be thankful!

Dag Hammarskjöld has a wonderfully concise prayer: “for all that has been, thanks; for all that will be yes”

may this be your grace today!

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