I will never read James 4:13-15 without smiling at the memory. I was 22 years old. I had just finished an internship in college ministry in Boulder, Colorado. I thought that God might be calling me to more ministry, and I needed more training. That meant seminary, and a three-year Master’s degree. The problem was, I had a lot of student loan debt from college. I thought to myself, “I’ll go back to Seattle (my hometown), find a job, make as much money as I can, and pay off the debts. Then, I could think about going to seminary.” I told a few family members and friends my plan.
The thing was, I couldn’t seem to find a job that paid me a lot of money. Instead, I found two jobs in two churches! One was making copies at what had become a “home church” for me, University Presbyterian Church.
I made $7 an hour, with an impressive title of “Production Coordinator.” I ran the copy machine, helped stuff the church newsletter, cut flyers, and folded the bulletins with a machine that may have been developed during World War II. (folding machine to the left may be exaggerated for dramatic effect. I don’t recall mine being so shiny.)
The other job was as a part-time youth director for a church in the south part of Seattle. I developed an after school program for kids in the neighborhood, most of whom had never stepped foot in a church. At the same time, I shared a house with five other twenty-somethings, all of us committing to live out our faith in Christ, being good neighbors, and helping with the kids in the after-school program.
My original “plan” didn’t quite work out. And it was in that year that I came across these words in James 4: “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”…Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will.” I couldn’t get away from the fact at how much the words of James echoed exactly what I had said a few months earlier. It was as if the Lord was writing to me through this letter. I learned that year that my plans should be written in pencil. And that the Lord might have different plans. Those experiences I had that year in those two churches and with my housemates were ones I wouldn’t replace. And that the Lord’s will (the word literally means “wish/want”) is better than my plans.
Question for reflection: What about you? Has there been a time that your plans were replaced by the Lord’s wishes, and you’re glad they were?