122018Jan
A Plan to Be Abandoned

A Plan to Be Abandoned

I’m a planner. Some people might not even notice that about me. That is because most of the planning goes on in my mind. I don’t necessarily share my plans with those around me. The planning usually starts when my eyes open up in the morning. “Get up, floss, brush teeth, eat breakfast, work out, take a shower, clean CPAP mask, pack lunch (and sometimes supper), go to work”. And I usually have a time frame in mind as well. I wind up running around crazily trying to get it all done.

I’ve been told I don’t typically look stressed. I don’t readily reveal my emotional state through my demeanor. However, when my plan does not work out, people can see the effects at times: anxiety and frustration.

Planning, in general, is not a bad thing. Some of you reading this might even be saying to yourself that you wish you were a better planner. Well, while planning is not inherently bad and can actually be a really great thing, planning can also be a sign of some really messed up stuff going on inside of us…stuff that robs us of any joy in life.

In counseling others, I’ve derived a little saying that I use with myself. When I plan for a session, I will silently tell myself that what I’m putting together is “a plan to be abandoned”. While it’s important to think through my last session with someone, what’s going on in their life, and prayerfully consider where to go next, the truth is that 90% of the time when I actually meet with the person I discover they are in a totally different place than what I planned for. To truly listen and meet them where they are at, to “stick to the plan” would be impersonal and unhelpful.

I think my life, in general, outside of the counseling office might need some of this approach applied to it. In Revelation 3, Jesus says to a group of people…

‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.’ (Revelation 3:15-17)

Many times I’ve heard this passage preached in a way that appeared to be an attempt to guilt me into “working harder for the Lord”. I don’t think that’s what Jesus was pushing for here at all. Instead, I think it is more like how the Fields Brothers discuss it in their book, “Breaking the Hex” (I highly recommend this book!). When we are “hot”, we are trusting God and being led by the Spirit. The Spirit guides our thoughts, words, and actions. When we are “cold”, we are striving to do things in our own power. We lifelessly engage others and the world around us with our own plans (or rules), whether we made them up or found them somewhere else.

When we are “lukewarm”, we have a foot in each boat. On one hand, we say we are trusting God and being sensitive to the leading of His Spirit. On the other hand, we have our own plan and push hard to bring it to fruition. If we were either one of the two alone, we’d be in much better shape. If we were only cold, eventually we would see the error of our perspective and have an opportunity to surrender that failed attempt at life. If we were only hot, wow that would be awesome and freeing! But when we are lukewarm, we feel like we have it all together. We have the religious mask on AND we can try to get our way all the time. As anxiety, anger, and depression kick in while we struggle with two opposing forces, we attempt to switch back and forth according to what seems to suit us at the time. We say we are trusting Him, and fall for the lie that we are! However, we are not truly trusting Him. We are merely still trying to be in control, which leads us into more anxiety, frustration, feelings of hopelessness, hurt relationships, confusion and a host of other problems. It’s maddening!

We can’t have both. We can’t be both hot and cold. We can certainly be lukewarm, but Jesus knew He needed to clearly warn us of that hurtful path. What if we took the stance that even the best of our plans can always be abandoned? What if we trusted that His perspective is always infinitely better than ours? What if we found ourselves less committed to our preconceived plans and more open to what our loving Father is saying in the moment? Perhaps we could rest, experiencing more of the comforting warmth of being hot than cold…and finding an escape from the yucky lukewarm temperature that is never satisfying.

-Neil

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