July 21, 2016

When Things Don’t Go According to Plan

What do you do when things don’t go according to plan?

Episcopalians are planners. We like things to be decent and in order, and we like to know who’s doing what well in advance of the liturgy or event we are planning. We make a rota, order the correct number of bulletins, set the correct number of chairs.

Except life isn’t really predictable, is it? I was recently at a very well planned conference, serving as chaplain. A family tragedy meant that the musician who was to have been with us couldn’t come at the last minute. The day before the conference, Orlando happened. Our well-laid plans no longer made the kind of sense they had just the week before.

I am neither a musician nor a fabulous creator of prayer space. But I knew we needed music and a place of remembrance and prayer. So I sang, mostly on key. I asked for a dedicated corner of space and some candles. I printed out the names and pictures of victims. Most importantly, I invited the gathered community to add to my efforts.

What happened next was pretty awesome. People stepped up. Better singers and musicians. People with an artistic eye and a talent for bringing the world into liturgical space. It wasn’t because I did what I did particularly well. It might even have been because I did my part so imperfectly. My imperfection -- even inadequacy -- signaled that other imperfect people could jump in, that they were needed. My efforts signaled an expectation that the gathered community would rally and do what needed to be done and that the necessary talents were among us.

What we ended up with was nothing like what the professional musician would have brought, or even a week of planning might have created. But it filled our spirits and lifted our hearts. It revealed talents that would have remained hidden.

Next time things don’t go according to plan, can you try just stepping in and modeling what you believe needs to be done? Might you trust that God will use your deeply imperfect efforts to invite others? Might you trust that what will emerge will be full of the holy spirit, because God is fully capable of bringing beauty out of brokenness, life out of death? 

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