When I went to bed Sunday evening my next day was planned. I was going to sleep in late, have breakfast, dress, go to the office for a couple of hours, and come home and work outside. We were on fall break. But I got a phone call at 8:05 the next morning and everything changed.
An adjunct professor was not going to be able to meet with his Doctor of Ministry Class and the director of the program was calling to see if I would cover for him. I was (am) scheduled to teach the same group of students next week. The problem was that I wasn’t ready. Cheryl and I are teaching the class together and because of some miscommunication between the Seminary and the students (they had not received their syllabi and therefore had not completed their pre-class assignments) I was in the midst of restructuring the entire course. Cheryl was in California speaking at Fuller Theological Seminary.
I agreed to meet the class at 10 AM and to begin our course sessions. After I got dressed I hurried to the school, gathered some materials, and began the class. From my perspective it went as well as possible. Cheryl and I worked this afternoon making final preparations for next week’s sessions.
As I have written before, I like routine. I don’t like it when my plans are interrupted. Self analysis suggests one of my coping mechanisms is to simply not make plans in which I am emotionally vested except for the bigger issues of life. It’s my “who cares” principle. If the event I am preparing for is not of some consequence then why should I get all worked up about it. A leisurely morning and projects outside don’t have to be done today.
One result of this attitude is that I may not look my best. People might think I am less intelligent than I otherwise could have fooled them into thinking that I was. Responding to the unexpected often means I must forget about myself and think about the needs of others. It also means I must recognize that I don’t really control my life; sometimes the unexpected is a requirement and not just a request.
Perhaps the greatest danger of the unexpected events of life is the temptation to allow the urgent to crowd out the important. A crisis may be of little significance. The truly important may in fact most often be found in the dull routines of life. Unexpected challenges force us to choose between the better and the best. They are tests of our heart; do I have the mind of Christ?
I am thankful for the unexpected because it affords great opportunity to be creative and to be open to new discoveries. I find that when I am responding to a situation completely outside of my comfort zone of self protection, I am most free to explore and discover, to look at old problems in new ways. At least this is true when I can push through my initial panic and set sail on the sea of trust. The truth that God is at work becomes more palpable when I know that I am not in charge of the outcomes; I am just a helmsman trying to do my part while He captains the ship.
Yes, I am usually annoyed by the interruptions of life. But once I get over my initial frustration, I most often find in them wondrous gifts. I am thankful for the unmarked detours of life. This entry would be so much more engaging if I could report a Divine encounter with the class on Monday, a miracle, or at least some great discovery. I can’t. I can only say that I felt God’s pleasure and it was wonderful.
October 9, 2010