Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Is there a plan?

In the late fall of my sophomore year of college, I went through my fraternity’s initiation week. I had pledged the previous spring; most pledged as first-semester freshmen in the fall and were initiated in the spring. So we had a small class of five.

There was no physical hazing, but it was an emotional and physical ordeal. Some of the week’s activities included wearing a coat and tie, even to classes; carrying around a large cardboard version of our pledge pin for the active members to sign (and hoping none of them tore your pin up – that’s why you made extra copies); not wearing shoes while you were in the fraternity house; sleeping under the dining room tables; and carrying a painted cigar box, to keep in it anything any active member told you to keep in it.

I was the only one of the five who was required to keep a copy of the “Four Spiritual Laws” in my cigar box. A member active in Campus Crusade for Christ quizzed me closely before he signed my cardboard pledge pin. He asked me all kinds of questions about sin, faith, the person of Jesus and his atoning work – and was amazed I knew all the answers. I wasn’t a believer, but everything I had learned in two years of Lutheran catechism had stuck. And I remembered it, even if I wasn’t exactly a paragon of Christian virtue. He must have been suspicious, because he told me to keep a copy of the Four Spiritual Laws in my cigar box and explain them to anyone who asked.

The “law” I always remembered was this one: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” It’s a staple of evangelical Christianity. We may often forget “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” but every one of us knows about the plan, or at least that there’s supposed to be one for each and every one of us.

Not that I have lived more years than I have left to live (so say the statistics, not to mention common sense), I wonder if I haven’t been looking at this all wrong.

It’s not that I doubt God has a plan, and it’s not that I doubt that God has a plan for me. But it’s more that I’ve been looking at this from the wrong end of binoculars. Maybe the spiritual law should have read this way: “God loves you and you are part of his plan.”

I’ve spent a lot of time over a lot of years worrying about what God’s plan was for me. Should I take this job? Should I attend this church? Should I make this major move? Is this what I’m being called to do? Something would happen, and voila! An answer to prayer!

You see my problem. All the emphasis, and all the focus, has been on me. I haven’t spent as much time thinking God’s plan as much as I have mine. And I don’t think the whole point of God’s universe is a plan for me. But I do think that I’m a tiny part of the point of God’s plan – and I’m stunned that he loved me enough to include me in that.

So instead of the Four Spiritual Laws, perhaps what I should have carried in my cigar box was a pocket-sized edition of the Psalms.

Over at Faith Barista, Bonnie Gray is hosting a blog-and-comment discussion of “keeping faith fresh.” Last week’s discussion was on letting go of worry. This week’s discussion is on discovering God's purpose for each of us.

Photograph: Rainbow by Anna Cervova via Public Domain Pictures.


Michael said...

You have no idea how many times I've heard people come to that realization since I've went into ministry. Wow.

Red Letter Believers said...

I think the idea of the Plan really was mistaken for a blueprint. Actually, God wants us to be obedient...that's His plan.

Micah 6:8: He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Glynn, I LOVE how you changed the focus. "God loves you and you are part of his plan."
This is awesome. Really.

katdish said...

Wonderful perspective. I like to think of it as living a better story that is part of the bigger story. Our lives as chapters that enrich His story.

Maude Lynn said...

I think that you're right. Thank you for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

Hit the nail on the head. Thanks Glynn. It's His plan and it's so wonderful to be a part of it! Great.

Unknown said...

Great post Glynn. Until we get our perspective straight on the place of our own plans we'll just remain frustrated and unfulfilled. Your line at the end about carrying around the Psalms was priceless.

Anonymous said...

Great post. A friend of mine and I have discussions about this from time to time. What is God's plan for my life versus where do I fit into God's plan. Definitely a lot to think about.

Sheryl said...

I know it has already been said, but I love, "God loves you and you are part of his plan." It's so rich. It reminds me that it really isn't all about me---it's about me in the big picture. I'm still important, but there's more to it than just my story.

Thanks for an insightful post!

Lisa notes... said...

“Maybe the spiritual law should have read this way:'God loves you and you are part of his plan.'"

Why do we get this backwards so easily? I suppose our sin nature has us naturally focus on self first. But I pray that I will do better in bringing up your point to myself and others when the old phrase comes up that “God has a plan for you life.” I’ll say, “Your life is a part of God’s plan.”

Thanks for sharing this.

Bonnie Gray said...

Whew! This was extra bold and extra fresh post on God's plan. WOKE ME right up! ;)

"God loves you and you are part of his plan."

I'm speechless. Amen.. Feels so peaceful just seeing it right there in black and white.

And I LOVE the way you ended it with a powerful encouragement -- agree with Ed - the way you ended it with the Psalms is priceless.

You got me so encouraged, Glynn -- I want to dive even more into what God's plan is and continue to believe He has a part in there for me.

THANK YOU for adding this important post to the jam!