January 16, 2009

Twenty Something / Christina Capecchi

Surrendering to a higher plan

The swirling snow and howling wind make a vivid demonstration of how swiftly the best-laid plans can be overturned.

Tonight was supposed to be the annual Capecchi ladies’ dinner at a family-style Italian restaurant in St. Paul. We gather there to consume enormous quantities of pasta and conversation. We toast with wine to the blood that binds our friendships.

But Mother Nature had a different agenda, unleashing a blizzard that made a mockery of our plan. We thought it would be so easy to all meet at the same location on the same day? Ha!

Much as I looked forward to our gathering, its cancellation sparked a glee that harkens back to grade school and the unbridled ecstasy of a snow day.

Our days are splintered into intervals of activity, one locked beside another. So when a larger force wipes out the schedule, it brings a certain relief and bestows a rare gift: unallocated time. What a wonder! A million ways to spend the time! Where to begin? How to properly devour the surprise?

Humans, by nature, are planners. Every week, we craft well-intentioned, neatly laid, thoroughly coordinated plans. Dinner plans, career goals. Romantic schemes, recreational ideas. Weekend plans, five-year plans.

We plot, we project, we anticipate.

There is nothing wrong with that impulse. God asks us to use our gifts to the fullest, work hard, and be deliberate about how we assign our energies and apply our talents.

But we cannot grow too attached to our plans. We must guard against the false notion that we possess control, that we are calling the shots. There is a larger force, a grander scheme.

This month’s readings remind us of that bigger picture. Isaiah speaks to troubled people, Israelites whose plans for peace and prosperity were trampled. He tells them, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the Earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts” (Is 55:8-9).

This message can be hard to hear because we like our plans; they are clear guideposts in an otherwise hazy future. But God’s plans are higher—better, wiser, richer. They come from another realm, from the heart of our Creator, whose timing is perfect and whose wisdom is infinite.

Believing in God’s plan and waiting on its fruition demands a mature faith. I saw that in my friend Wendy last summer. We had been discussing our eagerness to achieve certain goals. She had earned a master’s degree in a specialized field and had been searching at length for a job in the industry.

One night she e-mailed me, “I have really come to accept that God has some kind of crazy plan for me, and I will find out what it is at some point.”

Three months later, Wendy landed her dream job. “Two years and three months of patience, prayer and faith have finally paid off,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Wendy met a formidable challenge, releasing her own plan and trusting in God’s master plan—long before it had been revealed to her. She set her uncertainty and impatience aside and, like Samuel, said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sm 3:10).

God’s plans always provide for us. In the darkest hour at our greatest need, he fulfills our deepest desires.

And so, as we gaze at that blank calendar and imagine 2009, let us remember the master planner and write our plans in pencil.

(Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She can be reached at christina@readchristina.com.)

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