Saturday, March 23, 2013

Life didn't turn out the way I thought it would

While part of what I do to make a living involves planning, I plan for everything. Planning is in my DNA, here are but a few examples;

  • Driving Directions – While I have an iPad, multiple smart phones and a GPS, I never just leave the house and trust them. Before leaving I always look at a map, figure out the best path (including multiple alternate routes in case of traffic) and print out my route. Yes, I print it – you never know when all the cell towers might all of a sudden go off-line and the GPS satellite could fall out of orbit. I also plan for plenty of travel time plus extra time to spare. I’m not certain how God feels about it, but being late is a great big sin in my book.
  • Projects – Whether it’s raking leaves or tearing out and completely renovating the kitchen, it’s a project and needs planning. No matter the size of the project, I break it down into several smaller tasks, I put the tasks in order and figure out the total time and cost. When we traveled to Italy, there was a detailed spreadsheet with the dates, places and things we were going to visit and do.
  • Painting – First of all, I carefully estimate the amount of paint that I’ll need and then about double it just to eliminate any possible need to make a second trip to the store. After removing all furniture and things from the walls, I put down a drop cloth and “edge” around the ceiling, corners and baseboards (twice.) Then I roll the walls in 4’ by 4’ sections; starting on the top half of the wall I roll in a “W” shape followed by an “M” shape and then rolling over any uncovered space. I then roll horizontally over the area followed by a final “vertical” roll. I repeat this process around the room, section by section.

By now I’m sure you really doubt my sanity! Yes, I pretty much plan just about everything I do. I even plan all the meals and cooking. I shop once a day and pick up all the fresh ingredients I need for the day’s meals, looking at plans for dinner to ensure that I have all the ingredients. This week I made Asian Noodles in a peanut and tahini (sesame seed) sauce so I needed lots of spices and ingredients. Taking my recipe to the kitchen, I carefully inspected what I had and made a list for shopping at the store. I am happy to report that the Asian Pasta dish came out exceptionally well.

The same cannot be said about my braised pork dinner though. I “thought” I had plenty of chicken stock but forgot that I had just given it to a worthy cause - chicken noodle soup lunch at Mary Ann’s school. Not wanting to go out just for chicken stock, I made a last minute substitution of seafood stock for chicken stock (which is nothing near a fair trade or replacement.) It turned out “OK” but I’m certain that it would have been better with chicken stock. While meals do hang in the balance, no one in our house goes crazy if you make a last minute substitution and produce a clunker once in a while. 

The same cannot be said about life though. This week I had multiple conversations where people said “Life didn’t turn out like I planned.” As I listened, they each had made careful plans, setting the course of their lives, doing all the right things yet they seemed to be missing something. While they had enough things, there seemed to be a hollow pause in their voice as they described life like empty rooms. Rooms that were made to be filled with people, laughter and joy yet their lives seemed to reflect the emptiness of their soul.

All of this came to mind like a flood this morning as I read a piece in (of all places) the Wall Street Journal. Towards the end of this article the author wrote, “Maybe it comes down to this: We want God.”[1]

In those few insightful words, the author captured the essence of what my friends were looking for. They had tried to fill up the rooms of their heart with everyone and everything except the one who could give them comfort, purpose and meaning in life. Without a guide to point the way, we all will drift or run in a direction that ends in loneliness, self-doubt and a sense that life didn’t turn out all that well.

One evening, Jesus was having dinner with the socially undesirable of his day. I’m sure that they asked the same question about life not turning out the way they planned. After all, who starts out in life planning to be a traitor to his people and homeland? Who truly plans to become a prostitute? They were outcasts and looked down on by society as a whole, but especially by self-righteous religious leaders. When Jesus hears the arrogant grumble against his desire to be with these outcasts, he blasts these conceited, self-righteous bigots. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what God means when he says: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” [2]

Jesus continues reaching out to us. He knows that “life didn’t turn out the way we had hoped.” Sometimes it’s because of our decisions, actions or words. Sometimes it was because what someone else did or said. No matter the cause or reason, Jesus is ready and willing to help and heal our brokenness of soul and fill the empty meaningless of life. He knows our weakness and failures, yet he loves us and wants to live life with us.

Now is the time to stop self-medicating to heal our broken hearts. No amount of self-will or planning can fill us with meaning, purpose and restoration. Only by turning to Jesus can life turn into something good, pure and full.

Blessings - Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith through GLAD Associates. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

[1] 'Go and Repair My House,' Heard the Saint of Assisi, By Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal, March 16th, 2013
[2] Matthew 9:12,13

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