I am a planner: I live by my to-do list, my desk constantly looks like a post-its note convention, and even my days off are mentally filled with which activities I most need to do, or feel would do me the most good. My planning isn’t just in the short-term of days or weeks, either. I believe I told my kindergarten class I wanted to be a missionary. I applied to seminary before going to serve as a Young Adult Volunteer in Belfast, so that when I returned, I could just ease straight into that journey.
During my last semester in seminary, I worked with PCUSA world mission, my presbytery, my home church and Fitzroy in Belfast to create a mission post because I felt called back there again. Everything was going according to my carefully laid plans (since kindergarten, apparently). But when I returned from my 2-year post in Belfast, plan as I tried, I did not have a next call neatly lined up.
I entered into a time of discernment and uncertainty, where I had no idea what state I would live in serving God next. But, being the planner that I was, I assumed I would be an Associate Pastor for Mission or something of the sort in a large church. While I interviewed and waited, I found myself filling my time by preaching in small town churches who couldn’t afford a pastor. Each Sunday, I would show up with my portable preaching step (yep) and lead worship for anywhere from 2 (that did happen once) to 40 folks. I did not plan to fall in love with small churches. But God had other plans, and I did, and I wound up being called to a delightful small church nestled in the pine trees of North Carolina.
I shall refrain from the obvious quoting of the ‘life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans’ reference. But I will say this: control is an illusion in this life. We can plan until the cows come home, but life will still throw us the unexpected and unplanned.
As we prepare to receive the Christ child this Christmas, we must prepare to have our carefully controlled plans shaken by the One who broke into this world through an unplanned pregnancy to two terrified parents. I’m reminded of the words of Ann Weems from Kneeling in Bethlehem, words we are using in worship each Sunday of Advent, in that sweet country Carolina church I never planned to be called to. I’m so glad God had other plans.
The Coming of God by Ann WeemsOur God is the One who comes to us in a burning bush, in an angel’s song, in a newborn child. Our God is the One who cannot be found locked in the church, not even in the sanctuary. Our God will be where God will be with no constraints, no predictability. Our God lives where our God lives, and destruction has no power and even death cannot stop the living. Our God will be born where God will be born, but there is no place to look for the One who comes to us. When God is ready God will come even to a godforsaken place like a stable in Bethlehem. Watch… for you know not when God comes. Watch, that you might be found whenever wherever God comes.