You’ll hear Christians say things like “many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the Lord orders his steps”. Then, enter Covid-19.
Depending on where you’re at right now, in your head and in your heart, that phrase from Proverbs that Christians love to chuck around, in an effort to make sense of this post-modern chaotic existence, is either a promise or an absolute killjoy.
That’s a lot in one sentence. Let’s ask it simply:
What were your plans for 2020?
There are a few things I find myself meditating on currently. One of them is Jacke Conte’s words: “How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans.” It echoes the lyric in Robbie Williams’s chart-topping song.
I sit and talk to God;Feel, Robbie Williams.
He just laughs at my plans
My resolutions, plans and aspirations for 2020 were so incredibly vast and expansive, there was no canvas or frame big enough. In hindsight, I think God was chuckling at my plans. And as I reflect on how the future is no longer as it was, the question is: what are your plans now?
I posted these pictures on the last day of 2019 and the first day of 2020. For me they sum up a few things as I’ve reflected on life during lockdown and subsequently. Firstly, the metaphor of our journey through life as a river. Secondly, the relationships in our lives that really matter.
Let’s consider the river first. We’re all on a journey, and that journey is pretty small in the grander scheme of things (cosmos, the universe and all that). At the end of 2019, I’d duped myself into thinking that just because I’d been through a bunch of issues, I could now consider metaphorically thinking of myself as a river. Like, “I’m an unstoppable force, yo!“
These days I think of myself more like a minuscule water droplet as part of the water current, smacking and thwacking into fallen branches and over and around rocks in the river’s path. Covid-19 and the year 2020 is one almighty rapid of fallen trees and huge rocks… and yet, the current pushes us onward, whether we like it or not.
When I consider the whole “Lord ordering my steps” sentiment (or laughing at my plans), I think that there are many of us who, if we’re honest, just don’t like this idea, either intellectually or cosmically. We don’t like being pushed or pulled by the current. We’d rather think or ourselves as having some form of control. The challenge we all face is to wrestle past the infantile nature of our own hearts to “want our own way”.
That’s much harder for me than it is for anyone else. Ask my wife.
The scripture in Proverbs casts light on the book of James.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”James 4:13-15
A vapour. Now there’s a thought. At any point along this river journey, us water droplets could just evaporate… as we’re learning in 2020.
So what do we do with our plans? Morgan, in his commentary, calls this “a perfectly self-evident assertion” and goes on to say that “the one thing in the heart that may be depended upon is the counsel or guidance of Jehovah.”
I’ll just honestly put my hand up and say that on a minute-by-minute existential level, I’m a work-in-progress on this front.
The second picture, reflecting relationships, has had me considering a number of things during lockdown and after. I’m grateful to say that I could easily do a lifetime of lockdown with my wife, but it’s become evident this is not the case of many others.
Divorce lawyers are busy. Psychologists and counsellors are busy. People are scared, they’re hurting and they’re broken. And there’s collateral everywhere. There’s a growing awareness of things that have always been there on many levels: issues in relationships, in homes, in workplaces, in careers and in our general sense of purpose. It has all accelerated during lockdown and afterwards.
Anyone who has followed this blog of mine for even a few months will know that there are two things that are important to me: faith and family. And it must be authentic. So the big question is how do we do that?
Amidst the accelerated awareness, I hear people saying that we’ve got to be real with each other, around all sorts of issues. And I agree.
But we can be real and still have manners. We can be real and still show kindness. It’s a choice. I’ve seen the most hurt and broken people be generous towards others in the midst of their hardship.
The future is no longer as it was. My plans for 2020 have had to change. Yours have had to as well, presumably. And we all have to evolve.