Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Behind the Façade

It’s a strange cultural dilemma.

In the US (and in my family in particular), an extremely important skill is To Make a Plan. Excel spreadsheets on your computer, daily planners tucked into your purse, a calendar on your kitchen wall, even grocery lists on your refrigerator…planning for tomorrow is an essential part of life. I’ve been to seminars on planning and organization, and we even had a class on this as part of my freshman university orientation! I know you’ve seen those cute little posters hanging on office walls—“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

But, what happens when you live in a culture where you can plan until your ears turn blue, but it all might still fail within 30 seconds after implementation?

Airline tickets...completed with handwritten corrections :)
On Saturday, I had a meeting to plan for a workshop that will be starting later next week. As I sat there with my co-workers, we soon came to the main conclusion of the meeting—we didn’t know before and we still don’t know now and we won’t know until we get there and it all actually happens. And so, we shook hands and hugged and ate some tasty watermelon, and everyone left the meeting without feeling like there was anything abnormal about it. So what if we don’t know who is going to be there or how many or where we’re going to hold it or what we’re going to truly try to accomplish? That’s not particularly unusual!

I’ve had plans take 180 degree turns within an hour (which included massive changes in things like flights, hotels, vehicles and more); I have chatted with happy healthy friends in the morning only to have them medivaced to Australia by the afternoon. Grocery shopping, clothing repair, workshops, weather, transportation, translation issues…it’s to the point that if a plan actually makes it to conclusion with no hitches or hiccups, I look at it in suspicion. All right, what went wrong? (Either that, or the plan was so vague, like “make dinner,” that there was not many ways it could fail…but of course, it still COULD.)

But to be honest, that level of uncertainty and being out of control is like that in the US as well—we just hide it better. We think we have the ability to plan and execute and control the outcome, and we attempt to put in processes and patterns and protocols to make it more likely….but in reality, those only deal hypothetically with the future and we, as created human beings, can only ever live in the present. The now.

In a 3rd world country, that façade is removed, and instead I live in the world of uncertainty as it really is—coloring outside the lines and beyond my control. It’s weird and strange and uncomfortable to live this way, especially as an American who probably has an Excel spreadsheet regulating my internal organs, and especially when I’m still required to submit plans for weeks, months, and years, or when I need to purchase tickets to fly back to the US several months in advance… all the while my experience is screaming at me that all those proposals may fall to pieces at 1:15 tomorrow.

It’s like looking at a complex machine with all the pretty plastic covers taken off, and suddenly, I don’t understand it anymore. That lack of control could be utterly terrifying. And, I think, I would go crazy if it weren’t for one thing…

I may not have any idea if I will make it to my tea appointment this afternoon or if I’ll even have enough gas to cook lunch, much less fly to New Ireland and have a successful workshop next week. But, I have a Heavenly Father who lives not only in the Now but also in the Future and in the Past. He has already orchestrated eternity, which includes the events of my day. And so, I start my mornings by handing the Lord my to-do list and my activities, because, as my devotion reminded me this morning, He’s my King…and who knows what the King has planned for today!

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.
James 4:13-15