“We plan; God laughs.” — old Yiddish proverb
But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. — James 4:16
In 2009, we moved from Tennessee to Vermont where I planned to pastor a church and stay until I died. I told everybody that who would listen. I have never felt “at home” anywhere I’ve lived more than I did in New England, and that certainly helped. My plan was to pastor that little church through decades of seasons, and I really did mean it. I wasn’t just telling people what I thought they wanted to hear. (In a way, I was telling people what I wanted to hear.)
When it became clear to us that our time there was drawing to a close, it was very disorienting for me. I was embarrassed and afraid. I announced my resignation through tears, shaking in the pulpit. I knew it was right to trust the Lord’s leading, but I didn’t really understand it. And I can’t say I really liked it.
In 2015, I moved my family from Vermont to Kansas City, Missouri, where I planned to work at the resurgent Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. We had no background or family in the Midwest. I didn’t have a seminary degree. Other than my undergraduate degree, which I earned totally as a commuter, I had no experience in institutional or academic environments. We came to Kansas City really beat up, honestly, and licking our wounds. I said to my wife, “We’ll just be here long enough to get our girls out of school and see them off. Then, we can regroup and decide what we want to do.”
My plan was to just get through the next season, get to the empty nest, and then weigh our options about the next ministry assignment. But something weird happened. I found that I enjoyed my work here more than I thought I would. Discovering a vision for teaching that I didn’t anticipate, I finally got my seminary degree and eventually transitioned from my role in the communications department to faculty. My wife and I began to mentor and disciple young men and women at our church. And our church especially became a place of great healing and nourishment for us.
As we just delivered our youngest daughter to college in Pennsylvania, this is the year we were supposed to be making our “next season” plans. But each year we’ve been here, we’ve seen ourselves staying put longer. And all our thoughts about the future at this moment entail ministering from here. This place is home.
What I had envisioned once as “forever,” the Lord declared a season. And what I once envisioned as just a season, the Lord has appeared to declare . . . well, longer than that.
I don’t know why I have to keep relearning this lesson. Old Yiddish proverbs notwithstanding, I know what the Holy Bible says about saying what you’re going to do tomorrow. In short, don’t. We don’t know what the Lord is going to do tomorrow. I think it’s okay to make plans — wisdom would demand it, in fact. But making predictions, having a certainty about what’s uncertain, resolving beyond one’s knowledge — these are the ways of foolishness. When you get right down to it, we are all just little corks bobbing around in the unpredictable waves of God’s sovereignty.
I won’t pretend his way is always comprehensible, much less comfortable. But he’s never done me wrong.
So, for anybody who got nervous reading the title of this post — relax. We’re planning to be in Kansas City a long time. If the Lord wills.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” — James 4:13-15