It seems like December is the month to say, “Not what I had planned”.
I’m a planner by nature. I wake up at the same time daily, and try to go to sleep at roughly the same time daily. I have routines. I have dress codes for work. I schedule meetings at times in the day with families. I schedule my business meetings in a timely fashion. I generally have my top 10 places to eat meals… you know, life is pretty predictable when it comes to planning and schedules.
Then, out of the blue, the church I was working for, ran out of funding for my salary as Senior Pastor. Didn’t see that coming this year. This year, after 7 years of serving this church, I was granted a sabbatical 3 months off of office work. We took advantage and made some plans for trips to NYC, and Vancouver Island, Canada. We went to Ontario Canada and even to Los Angeles for some sunshine. We returned home to Colorado in August and found that church has spent the savings and giving was down, and wouldn’t recover. We gave it 3 months and the numbers kept declining, much to our chagrin. So we decided to resign the position before getting blindsided by bad news of no more money for staff positions. Didn’t see that coming. Again, not what I had planned.
Now I’m working part time for a local funeral home in town. We get calls, remove deceased, place them in our care, meet with families for services, care for the grieving as best we can, and complete services with burials or cremations. Not what I had planned; and not what they had planned, either. It’s quite the business for sure. I never knew the amount of work it takes to prepare someone for burial, or cremation services. I’ve been a pastor for nearly 30 years in various forms, and have walked with those grieving in many ways for those years, but I never imagined this side of the business it takes to care for the loved ones remaining. Again, not what I had planned.
Then I think about the time of year that it is. December is a month where people tend to say, “not what I had planned”. The passing of a loved one tends to occur more often in the winter than in the summer months, statistically. Many of our grieving families say aloud in our arrangement meetings, “This is not what we had planned”. I couldn’t agree more.
December is also the time of year when we celebrate and remember the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah of the world. King of kings and Lord of lords was born to a young virgin girl, engaged to be married to a young man Joseph. Imagine the conversation Mary had with the Angel Gabriel about the pregnancy, “not what I had planned, but may it be according to your word”. And imagine the dream Joseph experienced with the angel about Mary’s pregnancy. I wonder if his response was “not what I had planned, but I will obey”. And Zachariah heard from the Angel Gabriel about his wife Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the baptizer, and imagine his conversation going something like, “not what I had planned”.
I can’t imagine any of the events that happened in the Bible were something God would say, “not what I had planned”. God is never surprised. Someone posted an image of the manger scene on social media with a meme quote “unplanned pregnancy”. But it sat wrong with me. God didn’t see that pregnancy, the one with his Son, the chosen Messiah for the salvation of the world … that one …, as anything unplanned. God, in His infinite wisdom and total sovereign grace, saw that pregnancy as the most pre-planned event in history. Some 300 Scriptures are linked to predicting that one pregnancy alone. God doesn’t do anything unplanned. And so it is with our lives.
So, when life throws you a curve ball, or events in your life, career, or family dynamics feel like “not what I had planned”, you’re not alone. Everyone feels the struggle of “not what I had planned”… everyone, except God. He knows. He is sovereign. He is not caught off guard. You can rest assured that your life, though confusing to you, may be God’s sovereign work of Grace for others in your world around you.
Maybe you need to hear the words of C.S. Lewis again, “The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’, or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course, that what one calls interruptions ARE precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one, day by day.” If God is able to see your life as an orchestration of His Divine work, maybe we can learn to see it this way too.
Merry Christmas. May all your plans, and un-plans, lead you closer to Jesus, who was born for you, and relentlessly pursues your heart. He’s not going to give up.