The first half of daily office gospel reading for Friday is one of a type of passage that I struggle with. To me, It implies that planning for the future is somehow wrong.
This is an issue I have struggled with since the first time I read the bible through when I was a teenager. Since I can remember, I’ve always been a planner and organizer (of space and time), so it is difficult for me to see any downside to planning ahead.
That said, there are definite downsides to getting locked in to a vision of how life will go.
When I was in high school, my imagined future included a spouse and at least one child (frequently a girl to be given my middle name) beyond that and vague ideas of having a ‘job’ my imagination did not take me.
My life has been so much wilder and richer than that imagined future. The only constant between my teen imaginings and reality is that I do have both a spouse and a, now, adult child, both of whom I delight in.
I wonder if the warnings about living too much in the future are in part warnings against getting locked in to one idea of what the future ‘should’ bring and thus missing opportunities in the ‘now’.
One of my own weaknesses, and a flip-side of being a planner, is a tendency to get grouchy if a plan is changed without my input. That grouchiness does not add anything to my own experience or to those around me. It can drain the fun and spontaneity out of a gathering.
There are times when sticking to a plan is helpful and necessary and there are times when flexibility and the ability to ‘go with the flow’ are necessary. I’m just not very good at the flexibility half of the equation.
So, I take this passage as a reminder that my plans are not sacred. They are not holy writ (as much as I might like them to be treated that way), they are an idea of a future that has not come yet and if my plans don’t come to fruition, is it really a good idea to stay locked into them?
Even if I have a plan, massive events like wildfires, hurricanes, and earthquakes are all larger than I am and can sweep both me and my plans away.
Rather that invest energy in ‘how it should have been’ this passage encourages me to use that energy to adapt to what is actually happening around me and to embrace events and people that are more than anything I could ever imagine.
All bible quotes are from either the NRSV or RSV text at Bible Gateway