I’m a planner. When I worked in finance, I loved planning the budget process — how would it unfold, who would be involved, how we would ensure we met our target. I was most satisfied when we had made all the plans and were ready to begin.
Now, as a wife and mother of two children, my plans are routinely thwarted by the realities of life. My plans — which allow me to feel as though I am control even when I am not — are often overrun by a husband who loves impromptu events and children who continually interrupt plans.
I find myself interrupted by life, while others are interrupted by death.
A longtime friend told me two weeks ago a story about his father who had recently died. His point: that life was what happened after everything else was planned, and deciding whether to be happy was a conscious decision. His story reminded me of John Lennon’s quote "Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans."
As a nation, we also like to plan. We forecast economic metrics, plan what we are going to accomplish and with whom we are going to communicate. Historically, we have been able to plan — with a reasonable degree of certainty -- on our children living better lives than we do. But this plan is a lot less certain these days.
We worry as a nation: Will our plans work out? Will our children be better off than we are?
This past Sunday’s sermon has led me to rethink the value of planning. Delivered by Canon George Maxwell Jr., at the Cathedral of St. Philip, the biblical readings focused on faith and readiness.
A New Testament reading, from Hebrews, focused on faith: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Another New Testament reading, from Luke, focused on being ready: "Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit... for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."
This passage has always left me apprehensive, as well as excited. Would I pass the test when the time came?
In school, I was a good test taker; I would set aside hours and hours to prepare.
But like everyone else, I am human, and have made mistakes; this testing would be different.
God’s message, delivered through Maxwell, added a different perspective. "I think that Jesus is making a different kind of announcement," Maxwell said. Instead of a test, "I think he is inviting us to participate with him in an adventure."
Gosh, that sounds a bit like my husband -- always ready for an adventure, even when I am not.
Maxwell continued, "If you think about it, there isn’t really any need for a test. Jesus is already aware of our failures. He already knows our weaknesses... There is no need to be afraid. Jesus doesn’t need for us to be perfect."
As I sat in the transept with my family, our son’s head in my lap and my husband’s arm around our daughter, the words washed over me, providing a sense of peace. God knows we are not perfect — and loves us still.
"To be ready," said Maxwell, "we need to develop a spirit of adventure. The journey will be dangerous. We can’t always protect ourselves from harm. The journey will be frustrating."
Dangerous, harmful, frustrating; I thought of my same friend whose dying father had told him not to be concerned with him, that he knew where he was going. As he shared his story, we both had tears streaming down our faces, but we were at peace.
"Something is demanded of us, "Maxwell continued. "We must be ready. But faithfulness in this sense is not getting the doctrines right as much as it is learning how to pray."
Prayer — something I do not do often enough — provides me with peace and, more often than not, results in my seeing the hand of God in my life.
Maxwell wrapped up by reminding us how important it is to retain this "bold spirit of adventure."
As a nation, we are at crossroads. Our plans are not working out as anticipated. We have made mistakes, and we are not perfect. We have heartache, loss and frustrations.
We should heed the words of the canon.
We cannot be perfect, but we must be willing and ready with a "bold spirit of adventure."
Jackie Gingrich Cushman founded and is chairman of the board of the Learning Makes a Difference Foundation.