Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Only Plan that Matters

Things rarely work out the way you plan.   Usually when I hear this cliché, I think of a lesson plan, a family dinner, an event at church, perhaps.  Yes, there are always kinks, always bumps in the road.  It’s always a good idea to come with Plan A as well as Plan B and C, and usually, one way or the other, things work out.  But what about when the kinks and the bumps sum up not just an hour, an evening, or a day, but your entire life, and you’ve exhausted plan A, B, and C? 

We, especially we women, love to be in control.  So when life flies off the tracks, it drives us nuts.  We spend our whole lives planning our lives, sometimes at the expense of actually living.  This is especially true at the holidays.  The photo on the Christmas card has to look just right, all the perfect presents must be bought, wrapped, and arranged under the carefully decorated tree, every party must be attended (and sometimes planned) with a smile, and there better be delicious baked goods sitting out on the kitchen counter at all times. 

I resolved to have a better attitude about Christmas this year and I did until about two days ago when I hit a wall- now, if I make one more trip to Target, bake one more batch of cookies, or have to address one more card to someone I almost forgot, I may scream.  I soaked up December and all that entails for the first three weeks, even enjoying the aroma of my fresh cut tree.  But now, just at the time when I should be able to enjoy things most, I just feel done, spent, exhausted...and I can’t wait to take down that tree.

“What’s the point?” I ask myself.  It’s easier to muster up some enthusiasm at school or church for those excited little faces at my class party or in the Christmas play, but here in my living room, this sleeping dog at my feet has no idea what happens two days from now.  But as soon as I ask myself why I should even bother, I glance at my mantel and see the nativity scene and remind myself THAT’S the point.  I also remind myself that this “nativity scene” that has become so commonplace to us was anything but common.  It couldn’t have been Mary’s Plan A, B, or C for that Christmas, but as always, God’s plan was best of all. 

We read the first couple of chapters of Luke in the Bible this time of year and we picture this nativity scene and smile at its familiarity.  However, to Mary, the position she had found herself in was anything but familiar.  She had to have felt many of the emotions so many of us experience this time of year to a much larger degree: overwhelmed, doubtful, afraid, maybe even disappointed that her own plans didn’t work out.  However, above all, she felt awe for God’s love for both her and the generations to come, love that was manifested through that precious baby boy. 

It seems simple to us now, but to Mary that night, it had to have seemed anything but simple.  Such is true for our own for own lives when we hit those kinks, those bumps in the road.  The question is: how will we handle it?  Will we kick, scream, and fight God’s plan every step of the way because, above all else, we want to be in control?  Or will we handle challenges with dignity, as Mary did, and embark bravely on the journey God has planned for us?

Luke 2:19 reads, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (NIV)  I like The Message version even better; it reads like this: “Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself.”  It’s okay to make plans, to have dreams, to hold them in our hearts.  That’s part of what makes us human; God created us so He understands.  But may we remember, as Mary did, that the only plan that matters in the end is the one that glorifies God.  And may we hold that deep within our hearts, this Christmas, and always.

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