Tolerance: Luci Shaw
Exiles on Main Street

The God With a Plan

PlanToday, on an absolutely beautiful Saturday, my wife and I and 9th grade son stayed in a room with 80 people for six hours and engaged in what was termed "appreciative inquiry," with a facilitator from Gordon College.  This is the initial part of a planning process for our children's Christian school, and I confess we all were reluctant to go but dutifully drug ourselves out of bed and made our way there nonetheless. (Do you detect a complaining spirit?)

I'm not too keen on planning or touchy-feely sessions in small groups where you share experiences with people you sometimes don"t know that well.  When we arrived, after the usual donuts and drink and chat and introductions, we were seated in small groups of six, none of whom could be a family member, and we were to interview the person next to us who would describe to us a learning success story, either in his life or someone else's life.  Then, roles were reversed and we became the interviewee.  After that, we reported to the group on our interviewee, and a clerk wrote down lessons learned from this.  After that, as a group we had to distill the points to three central points and post these on a wall, beside others.  Then, each of the eighty persons was able to mark up to five stars on any combination of points on the wall.  While we had lunch, a few people distilled these points into seven of the most popular items.  Next, we spent time as a group talking about how these seven principles could play out in several areas, like spiritual formation, parental involvement, board leadership, and so on.  Next, each of us individually came up with an "offer," that is, what we would be willing to do to facilitate action on any one item.

Surely this has some merit, but I do not know how much.  I have been involved in planning processes in the past, and produced some logical and beautiful plans, only to see the plans shelved because events overtake the organization or there are changes that are so significant that the plans no longer seem to make sense.  Mostly, we are too busy living --- doing what has to be done each day --- to pull the plan out and ask if we're meeting our goals and objectives.  So, I'm ambivalent about the whole process.

What assurance it is to read Jeremiah 29:11, where God gives a promise to His people in exile: "' For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"  If God has a plan, surely if we image God, we plan, trying to think His thoughts after Him.  What was His plan?  He told them to build houses, settle down, plant gardens, marry, have children, seek peace, and so on.  And what does Job say to God but "no plan of yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2).  And finally, Proverbs 14:22 says "those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness," as opposed to plotting evil, but that seems to be an orientation rather than a plan.  And that right there is about the only times the word "plan" ever shows up in the Bible.  That doesn't mean people didn't plan things.  Solomon surely planned things in regard to the building of the temple, but there's not much emphasis on planning. There is a lot of attention to maintaining a close relationship to God so as to be sensitive to the promptings of His Spirit.

I'm not convinced about planning.  Perhaps our time would have been better spent by sharing concerns about the school and praying for a considerable time.  Just point me in the right direction (God-ward) and encourage me to keep walking.   That may be enough.  God has a plan.  I just need to start walking.