Plans - Monday Musing, March 8, 2021
Plans. We all make plans. Some of us are more detail-oriented and make lists for everything under the sun. Others may be less deliberate, so our decisions about what we are going to do may be fluid or flexible. For the list-writer, there is satisfaction in crossing items off the list. One project planned, executed, and accomplished. Done, crossed off, move on to the next task, next project, new plan.
An old Yiddish proverb says, “We plan, God laughs,” an expression to which many of us nod our heads in agreement. At every stage of life we make plans, setting out where we want to go, and imagining what we will be like when we get there, but things have a way of not turning out as we hoped or expected. Despite our most careful planning, the road of life is a meandering, unpredictable journey. Do we laugh at the unexpected or do we cry?
Robert planned. He married Gail, the love of his life, and together they raised their two children. Bob worked, started his own construction business, and grew his business through word-of-mouth, with many clients, and generations of clients who grew into lifelong friends. Bob always stressed the importance of family, and once his children were born, his life and work were tailored around his kids. Bob coached hundreds of kids throughout his community. He was a no-nonsense coach who expected much from his players, but he taught them how to reach their full potential both in sports and in life. Many of his players considered him a second father.
Bob and Gail planned a retirement, plans that included buying a house in Orleans, fixing it up, enjoying weekends away now and again, enjoying this new community they hoped to call their permanent home two short years from now. But their retirement plans did not include a diagnosis of a rare brain disease. Sadly, Bob passed away this past Wednesday at the age of 62.
Planning may give us comfort. It provides the illusion that we are in control. But then life happens, and we realize that we aren’t in control after all. Accidents and disease have a way of upending the best of our planning. While many of us cling to scriptures that say: God has great plans for us (Jer 29:11), God has a purpose for us (Eph 2:10) that God will see to completion (Phil 1:6); we also know, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die” (Eccl 3:1). In the United Church of Christ, we do not believe that God causes harm or is the cause of our deaths. Rather, we understand harm and death as being part of this frail, human world. Even as we long for the day when death will be no more, we recognize God’s unconditional love and presence with us during times of suffering, pain, and yes, even death. We put periods in our lives where God puts commas. We think it’s over, period. But God puts a comma in those places because it's not over, God is still speaking.
Bob’s planning is complete; his plans are no more. While Bob’s physical life here on earth has ended, his life is not over. In this season of Lent, the faithful know that the journey Jesus walks to Golgotha is hard, but we know the grave did not hold Christ back, his death and the grave were not the last plan. Jesus’ last plan is everlasting life, and because Jesus lives, the faithful know that we, too, shall live.
My plan Monday afternoon? I will officiate Bob’s graveside service at the Orleans Cemetery where we will lay to rest one of God’s saints. May your plans today include prayers for Gail and the rest of Bob’s family.