Planning By Necessity: Surrendering Each Day
Katie and I are planners. Katie is the type of person that engages in this particular activity out of some (seemingly) natural occurring desire to have things orderly, planned, and well administrated. We have a family calendar that includes daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual events, activities, responsibilities, and significant holidays (Bulgarian, American, family, etc.) She lives for a good task list and any kind of color coordinated planner. I do not always understand this behavioral mindset, but I have learned to accept it, sometimes tolerate it, and as the years have gone by, REALLY appreciate and affirm it! I cannot imagine my life without her gifting in this area and I certainly believe that every great movement will falter without dynamic planning and organization. Thanks be to God for my wife’s natural occurring desire to plan.
I am the opposite. For me, planning is not a natural occurring desire or activity. It is like exercise. It is a necessary pain in order to keep things healthy, manageable, and to get more out of the resources I have. I am not a natural planner, but I recognize its importance and necessity. I became a reluctant planner when I accepted the position as church plant pastor with Real Life Community Church. Erik Gernand said to me one day, “Joshua, I am the guy standing up in the top of the tree looking at the destination God has called us to. You are the guy on the ground. I can see the destination, but you are the person God has called to get us there one step at a time.” That day I wrote a sentence in my journal that has become a life mantra: “A vision without a good plan is a pipe dream.” I became a planner. Slowly, reluctantly, with fits and starts, complaints, and aggravation, like the Israelites in the desert, I began to make my way through the wilderness of task lists, dates, and color coordinated planners.
This new lifestyle helped me accomplish more but it also required greater trust in God. I would pray and fast, seek council, and study the experience of other. Then, I would set a date to see a task accomplished that was necessary for the new church plant. Very often the date for the task would approach and I would have that internal struggle. Why not just move that date back? Why not just skip it? Why not just leave it alone for an extra day, week, or month? After all, I am not ready, everything is not ready, so surely that must have been the wrong date or task. Nobody will judge me if it just gets pushed back. But then I would get on my knees and God would remind that it was in pray and fasting that the date and task was set and that, having done all I can (and this is something very important), perhaps it was time to trust God to do what I could not. This type of trust is not easy. But I could tell you stories that would knock your socks off about how God has reminded me that it is His work, not mine, and so it requires his strength and action. Revelation is perhaps best when experienced in a flop sweat!
We are in a season of planning. Every minute, hour, day, week, and month is too significant to waste. We have a newborn, a 4-year-old, and a 3-year-old and this in and of itself means time cannot be wasted. On top of that we are headed to the United States in just about 76 days (whose counting) and there is so much that we must do, and so much that we must trust to God, in order to be prepared for it. I mean, just imagine if you had to leave your home in 76 days and that you would be gone for 3 months. What would you need to do to be ready: house, kids, school, immigration, flights, bags, pets, work, etc.? I have never left a young and vibrant church behind for three months after less than a year of its development. I must confess that I have struggled not be incredibly burdened, not only by the great task list before me, but also (and perhaps more so) by the knowns that will occur in my absence! I have laid awake some nights staring up, but instead of the ceiling, I see the faces of all the church members, friends, acquaintances, and neighbors that I love and care about hope to lead to Jesus and I spend these hours talking to Christ about each and every one by name. I cannot do enough today to safeguard all that might come tomorrow.
So, we are in a season of planning, but as odd as this might sound, it is also a season of trusting. It is a season of waking up in the morning, handing everything over to God that we can get done, and then going to bed each night and handing to God everything we could not. It is a release of the known and the unknown. It is not easy, but it means being able to live today to its fullest potential contribution to the Mission of God, because of surrendering the entirety of that Mission to… you guessed it, God! Nothing is more significant than God’s mission in the world, and nothing is more significant than the fact that I get to be a part of it. That means I care so much, I invest so much, I have such passion for my part in the great Mission. But it is still God’s Mission!
I am a big picture person. For me, it helps with everything. A needle is not such a big deal if the big picture is what the donated blood can accomplish. A day of miserable exercise is no big deal if it means I get to live longer and accomplish more for God with my body. A bad chapter in a big is no big deal if it contributes to a great narrative. There is another way of putting it. A painful needle, a miserable exercise, a bad chapter, a terrible day, can still have incredible significance and can be deserving of attention and righteous investment because it is a part of a great whole, a larger and more beautiful picture. What if you do not know how the small day to day things will contribute to the whole? Well, then every day is a great big mystery of trust and investment because who can know (God alone!) how it will contribute to the great Mission!
Well, I have to end with another Bonhoeffer quote. God is really using him to comfort and challenge me these days. Lately it’s from A Testament to Freedom:
“Every new morning is a new beginning of our life. Every day is a completed whole. The present day should be the boundary of our care and striving (Matt. 6:34, Jas. 4:14) It is long enough for us to find God or lose God, to keep the faith or fall into sin and shame. God created day and night so that we might not wander boundlessly, but already in the morning may see the goal of the evening before us. As the old sun rises new every day, so the eternal mercies of God are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23). To grasp the old faithfulness of God anew every morning, to be able – in the middle of life – to begin a new life with God daily, that is the gift that God gives with every new morning... Not fear of the day, not the burden of work that I have to do, but rather, the Lord, awakens me. So says the servant of God: “Morning by morning he wakens – wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught” (Isa. 50:4).
So, let’s LIVE today! I have a little tradition that has become one of the most incredible and blessed parts of my day. Each day I write those things that I bring to God on a yellow sticky note. Then, the next day, I replace those that God has answered with a blue sticky note. Some days I just sit back and marvel, sometimes a weep, at all that God has done day by day. Let’s be so careful to pay attention, to passionately invest ourselves, to plan and then surrender the plan, and trust God to do what we cannot do. Day by day the Kingdom of God is coming and we are a part of it! Let’s get in on it today and give the rest of the Lord of the Kingdom.
We need Christ for this surrender and it is easier to write about than to do. Will you please pray for us. The task list is long but the Mission is God’s!