Monday, January 5, 2009

Plans (original title, I know...)

This is a hard one for me to write. Not because I don't want to or because it's a tough topic or anything... but just because I don't really know how to appropriately express my thoughts on it. But this has been on my mind for a while now, and tonight I felt that I just needed to finally get it out in words (rather than letting it morph around in my head without the structure of words to help me understand) So if you choose to read this, this is your warning. It may not make sense. On the other hand, it may make perfect sense, making this paragraph the nonsensical one. Or maybe it won't turn out how I'm imagining it to. Okay... enough of an analytical disclaimer...

"Made Plans"
So I'm a planner. I really enjoy coming up with an idea, whether it be a craft, an activity, a reading plan, or just a general plan for the day. Sometimes I think I end up enjoying the planning better than the actual doing! For instance, one day I'll get an idea for a big project to work on -- perhaps a series of paintings for someone. I'll plan everything exactly as I want it, even down to imagining the reaction on the person's face when I present it to them. I'll go out and buy the materials (the same day I plan it, of course!) Because I know that if I wait a day or two, the excitement may have worn down and it'll take me forever to start the project. I'll begin and inevitably run out of time to finish it in the near future. Somewhere in that break, the project has lost excitement. I still want to do it of course, but it isn't a new idea... it's just an old, half-finished idea. Now of course, if I add something new to it or if I wait so long after starting it that when I begin again it seems like a new idea, then the excitement returns.

"Followed Plans"
Not only do I like making a plan, but I like following a plan. This may sound completely contradicting to what I just explained above, but I don't mean it to be. Whereas my previous example involved making a plan and then doing something once, now I am talking about following a method. For example, part of the career field I'm in involves studying extensively for exams. Part of me really enjoys this process. I love coming up with a lesson plan for myself... a study schedule to follow daily (in Excel, of course!). And then I get pleasure out of following that schedule and watching myself progress through my plan. Because of the structure, I get excited. I know that this may make me a nerd, but it's just one example. There are plenty of other things by which you can follow a method: keeping track of finances, a diet program, an exercise routine, anything that you develop a routine for, really. But for me, I only get excited if I consciously plan that routine. It can't be something that develops on it's own -- like pressing snooze exactly 3 times in the morning or drinking a glass of milk before bed every night -- although I suppose you could plan those. I wouldn't go as far as making a spreadsheet for them, though.

One more comment to touch on before I get to my real point (yes, all of this is just a set up for what I really want to say). These followed plans, like the made plans, can lose their excitement. If I fall away from the plan for awhile, it's very difficult to start again with that same plan. I need something fresh... a new incentive to get me going and keep me motivated. Perhaps I tweak the old plan... or maybe I come up with a new one from scratch. But I cannot return to the same old method that I fell away from in the first place. (again, unless it's been long enough to where it feels like a new plan again)

Now for the real point: I do this with God. And I can't decide to what extent it's a good thing and to what extent it might be a hinderence to our relationship.

I love learning through a method. And it really works for me. I like when Sermon topics follow a theme or a book of the Bible. I like knowing that what's coming next is related to something I just learned. And when it comes to spending time with God, I really enjoy the stability of it -- of knowing that even though I strive to be in constant communication with God, I have a protected time for just the two of us. And during this time, I like to have a plan. Something to follow and to build on - whether it be a devotional or just a plan as to how I make my way through scripture. All of this, I believe, is really healthy (assuming that God is invloved in the planning process!)

(SIDENOTE) I am not making the point that I am limiting God to my plan (at least I don't think I am at the moment) I realize that God is huge and can teach me whatever he wants to teach me whenever he wants - regardless of whether it's in my schedule. Oftentimes the hugest lessons I learn are not learned within my protected "alone time with God". And I shouldn't expect God to stop teaching me the moment I put down my Bible and leave for work. I am in a constant relationship with Him. This is a valid point to make, but not the one I'm aiming at in this entry. (END SIDENOTE)

But what happens, say, when I am drifting from God a little bit and am looking for something to help me get back into my intimate relationship with him? I need a plan to get excited about and that will make me get into a habit of spending time with God. Even if it doesn't come out of desire to begin with, my hope is that if I am pouring the Word into myself, it will eventually allow a spark to form and guide me back to a flaming intimacy with God. Still, I don't think there is anything unhealthy about this on the surface.

So where does planning and methodology become a hinderence to my relationship with God? The answer is instinctive to me. God has been teaching me this over the last few months: the planning becomes an interference when my focus shifts from God to the plan... when I put my faith in the method... when I expect the guide I'm following to bring me back to God. These plans of mine are tools... and they can be very powerful in my spiritual growth. But when they take the place of God - when they steal His thunder - they are no longer good. In fact, they have become sinful.

I can easily recognize when these methods of mine are at one extreme or the other. I know when a "plan" is aiding my growth in Christ and I can recognize when it is keeping me from God. What I'm having trouble seeing is the transition. When does my helpful plan begin to pull be down? How can I tell when that shift is happening? So many times I don't recognize that my focus has shifted -- I suddenly realize I have fallen away from God and wonder how it happened. I have been praying for God to open my eyes to this weakness of mine and reveal to me any sign of my shifting focus.

Lord, thank You for making me the way I am. Thank You for allowing me to get excited about plans. I love that You allow me to love spreasheets and organization and I pray that You would use these things in my life to bring me closer to, not further from, You. Be involved in my plans. Keep me from making them without You. Show me Your glory through my weakness. Open my eyes and my heart, Lord. Allow me to be sensitive to the things around me and the way my plans are impacting my relationship with You. Stop me from letting them take Your place. God, there is nothing like You. All the glory is Yours. Amen.


  1. I was so glad to see that you had a new entry into your blog. I enjoy reading it. This one made perfect sense to me, by the way. Hope to meet you someday. Ya'll need to come visit our SS class. We have an awesome teacher! (I guess I should make sure that you know I'm in John's class at FBNB!)

  2. i was going to comment on this post but i could't formulate a plan to do so.
    good expression, les.