I really like to be prepared. I like game-plans, dry runs, agendas, vaccines, first aid kits, insurance and road maps (remember those?) I don’t like surprises. I like a certain amount of control. Okay honestly, I like total control. It just makes life easier.
Our sons were Boy Scouts, and their moto is/was “Be Prepared”. How wonderful is that? The year that we lived in England our friends taught us that “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing”. We enjoyed every day outside, rain or shine, because we were prepared. Planning and preparation make perfect sense. My children can tell you that while they were growing up, I uttered this phrase ad nauseam: “Fail to plan; plan to fail”. It was often met with eye-rolling that was nearly audible. But we were ready for anything and everything! Until we weren’t.
When I look back on my life, I realize that most of my greatest blessings have occurred unplanned. My need for order and control has been upended in a heartbeat. Often literally. My wife and I lost our first baby in miscarriage at five months. All of our preparations were suddenly in vain. Not certain what the future might hold, our marriage and our life together suddenly seemed fragile and frightening. A year and a half later we heard another tiny heartbeat and prayed for our miracle baby. And he was and is. I’m convinced to this day, that we might never have loved our son Tyson as much as we do, had we not suffered that first loss. Five years later our family included our daughter Bess and our younger son Blake, and our love multiplied. Of course, after Blake was born, we realized we were outnumbered. We certainly hadn’t planned on that! Those of you who have raised children, know that God laughs at most of our plans. All the baby books and parenting classes end up being so much blah, blah, blah because your kid is special or weird or gifted or dull. So, we just did what we could to keep your heads above water. And somehow our non-plans worked out.
I’ve had job failures (epic ones) that at the time seemed like certain doom. Resumes and interviews and networking failed. I failed. Once during a very dark period, when employment was nowhere to be found, I met with our parish priest. I guess I was just looking for some kind of blessing or some inside “God help”. Instead, he just listened and then he assured me that our children would remain in school and tuition payments would resume only after I had secured employment. His words were a balm to my weary soul. Had I not lost my job, I would have never known his love and kindness.
I still like a plan. I still need a certain amount of control, but I’ve learned to cherish the unplanned. The surprises in life (the good ones and the bad ones) make us who we are. Many times, my certitude has been dashed in the blink of an eye. Plans fail. Stuff goes up in smoke. And in my exasperation, I pick up the pieces and start over. I believe these failures have taught me empathy. It’s easy to judge others when I perceive myself and my life as perfect. It’s in those wounded moments that I find my compassion.
I believe that I am able to carry the cross for others because so many have lifted the cross for me when I could no longer carry on.
Thus says the LORD: When someone falls, do they not rise again? If they turn away, do they not turn back? Jeremiah 8:4