Quick start. Get out in front of the others. Get a feel for the track. Smooth turns. Break as you enter, accelerate as you exit. Check your blind spot as you cross lanes. Stay a safe distance behind other cars (if they’re good enough to pass you). Don’t bump anyone. Wave to your friends. Lap after lap after lap. Enjoy the breeze. Nice and easy. Now just one lap to go. Second car in. Only one passed me. Not bad. Nice smooth stop. Yeah, that was fun…BAM! Hit full speed from behind by a middle school kid barely tall enough to reach the pedals. Instant pinch in my already vulnerable neck and everything starts to swim in front of my eyes. I literally see red. I did everything right. How could this happen?
So went my first time riding go-karts in many years. And within 24 hours I was already seeing the perfect analogy this experience was for my lifetime struggle with trying to control everything and often everyone around me. And the month or so since that day has been one additional opportunity after another to face my weakness, my sin, my failing, my nemesis: the lie I tell myself that I can and should control things.
I like to plan. No, that’s not strong enough. I need to plan. I feel compelled in nearly every waking moment to think about a variety of situations I will be in over the foreseeable future and contemplate what I can/should do. I have lists. I have daily, weekly, and monthly planners. On paper, on my phone, on my tablet, on my laptop. In my head. Sometimes even written on my hand. But the truth is, sometimes that is the extent of my actual ability to do anything about a given situation. I can write everything down, break down multiple scenarios, prepare myself for “worst case” scenarios (as my choleric personality type tends to do), but when it comes down to it, what happens will sometimes simply be out of my control. Woa…that was stressful even to type out and put in writing. But more often than I like to admit, it’s true.
As an experienced and relatively well-organized teacher, I have a lesson plan for the semester. I know how many lessons I will have with each class and what we need to cover in each to get through the designed curriculum. Ha! After more than five years teaching in the Czech Republic’s public school system, you’d think I’d know better. Nope. It gets me every time. That class that you’ve missed three classes with and you desperately need to catch up with? Well, they’re going on an “educational” field trip next week and nobody bothered to tell you. That after school English Drama Club that gives you just 90 minutes a week to prepare a full length play? Well, it’s gonna clash with a required laboratory double lesson and four of your actors will be absent every other week.
Three hours early as recommended for an international flight? Two hour delay. Meticulously plan and cook a three-course meal for a friend? Sudden illness. Spend an hour writing a detailed email explaining a complicated work issue? Colleague failed to read it and is completely unprepared for a meeting. Clear your schedule weeks ahead of time to spend the afternoon with a friend? Last minute family event trumps your plans. Spend four years in an apartment with things just the way you like them? New people move in and make themselves at home. These are mine. Yours might be different.
So, what’s the answer? Don’t plan at all? Just go with the flow? After all, people plan and God laughs, right? Wrong. That well-known saying paints a picture of an evil overseer waiting to see what ridiculous plan I will come up with, just so he can sweep his hand across the game board and mess it all up. That is not the loving and compassionate Creator that I know as my Lord and Savior. The one who is reaching out to me, seeking to sooth my anger and frustration, eager for me to let go. To allow Him to go first. And last. Alpha and Omega. To hem me in on all sides. Not to make the plans, but to be a part of His plan. To obediently and patiently follow the plans that He lays out. Not to question the ups, the downs, the ins, the outs. But to trust. Follow. Breathe in. Breathe out. Seek His ways. If I make perfect plans, do the “right” thing at every turn, consider every scenario, but never consider my Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend…what have I done? Nothing. If I don’t have love…I am nothing. (I Corinthians 13:1-3) Sometimes it takes a blind crash out of nowhere to make the truth swim before our eyes and weigh heavy on our hearts. And once again…to lie it all down at the foot of the cross. Or sometimes it’s a gentle voice behind us. (Isaiah 30:21) Either way, tomorrow is a new day full of grace with a chance to try again.