This week has turned out to be very different from the one I pencilled into my dairy ten months ago. For at the beginning of this year the Baptist Union Ministry Department wrote asking me to attend their winter Residential Selection Conference as preaching assessor. I said yes – why wouldn’t I, the food is particularly good at the centre they use! So last week I started reading the sermons I’d been sent and on Sunday got the suitcase down from the loft ready for a quick getaway at 8am sharp Monday.
However, the best laid plans... Rachel came back from Sunday evening youth group feeling quite unwell and that meant ‘Plan B’ was quickly adopted: I would be staying home. Phone calls were made giving just a few hours for the Selection Team to reassign various responsibilities and my suitcase has been put back into the loft. I’ve no doubt, because of the way things have turned out, that calling off my trip was the absolutely the right decision.
We’ve all had ‘Plan B’ moments and maybe at the time, when hopes are dashed and expectations unfulfilled, they seem like an inconvenience; yet looking back they are sometimes more a cause for blessing than regret.
One of my most frustrating ‘Plan B’ incidents happened as I was driving one December to a Students Union Conference in Blackpool. To be truthful I didn’t really want to go but nobody else had volunteered from my college. En route on the M6 approaching Lancashire the car windscreen shattered. I pulled into a service station and a company came out and replaced it. Three hours later, and now hopelessly running out of time to get there for the opening session I pulled out onto the slip road. BANG! The windscreen shattered again! ‘I don’t believe it’ I cried in true Victor Meldrew style. The repairers hadn’t done their job very well and had omitted to install some essential cushioning between glass and metal. I reversed up the slip road, made another phone call, waited three more hours for another repair team to fix the screen (with cushioning this time) and finally turned the car round and drove home rather than to Blackpool!
Forgive the truism but life is rarely smooth. Normality is much more about facing crisis and interruption than ‘quietly sitting by still waters’. In other words ‘Plan Bs’ are commonplace rather than exceptions.
As I write this therapeutic blog I’m reminded of Mary and the way God so dramatically broke into her life – crashed into it really – with that visitation from Gabriel and the Advent news. What, I wonder, were her plans? Were they all laid out and just about to come to fruition? Was she on the threshold of something exciting or just reassuringly mundane? Yet now...after hearing this news and consenting to it with such grace it was time for ‘Plan B’.
May I, Lord, greet such challenges and diversions with a similar openness of heart and generosity of spirit.
Last Sunday it was super to have a full church to hear The Park School Choir sing at morning service and Hymneo sang beautifully at St John’s on Sunday evening. This weekend...well on Friday it’s the Church Christmas Variety Show – which will be fun and then on Sunday we have Advent Communion at 10.30am and the showing of the BBC film ‘Nativity’ on the big screen in The Sanctuary from 4.30pm onwards.
With best wishes,