Last Wednesday was traffic jam day. I know the roads. I know the current road works and ‘go slow’ areas. You factor them into your travel time. My daughter, Claire, keeps telling me to check the roads online before the journey so I don’t get caught. I admit I don’t do that of-ten but I occasionally follow that advice though I’m not sure the advice would have helped on Wednesday. Going to Harlow it took me an extra hour (!) to get through an intersection. And then coming back to Suffolk I got caught – at a different place – and the 20 minute delay the online advice predicted turned into another extra 60 minutes. In my younger years, I’d’ve been a lot more agitated but now it is part of life and there’s nothing I can do once caught up in it except get through it as calmly as possible.
We have our plans and then there is life. It reminds me of the quip I once heard … if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans! And we can under-stand this thought – James is pretty explicit about how arrogant it is – he even calls it ‘evil’ – to try and plan (and to live) life without God (James 4:13-17).
Yet I don’t see this saying that we do nothing until we receive a direct word from God; that we should lay in bed until God tells us to get up; that we should choose this course, career, or companion when we receive clear instructions from God. Praying does involve telling God our plans – or at least our wishes and wants – and we definitely want things for others when we pray for them. My plans for Wednesday – I made them – weren’t wrong per se or sinful or something specifically against what God would want me to do – and yes, of course every-thing I plan and do is tainted and, sadly sometimes more so, drenched in my selfishness and sin – but they were still my plans made as a disciple of Jesus. There is an implicit ‘may God’s will be done here’. But I don’t leave my calendar blank and then log on each morning to see what God was got in store for me.
I live in the tension between ‘seizing the day’ and ‘your will be done, Lord’. And that means, as I’ve learnt over the years – and got less frustrated by the changes, the unexpected, the roadblocks, the ‘no’s – that while I didn’t see them coming, I can know that God did and I can look for what God wants me to do in that moment when my plans are not going to my plan. God’s will is still being done when I live in the relationship God has established with me through Jesus. It is still my life, of course. My choices, my behaviour, I live inside my head but through Jesus I am drawn to see myself from ‘the outside’, to pause, to consider another perspective – God’s. Why should I bother? Because of a cross and an empty tomb … and because the older I become, the more evidence (life experience) I acquire that God does bring good from each day – for me and particularly for those around me.