I have my plan to write and post a significant piece of the book every weekend and it’s a good plan. It helps motivate me and focuses my energy. It lets others know what to expect. But that assumes I was right in my plan all along, and that’s not the way the best parts of life seem to work. If I am paying attention, the interruptions are often better than the plan.
The God of Surprise
If I had everything figured out in advance, that means I know what I’m doing. Obviously, this is not the case. I have to leave open the possibility that God is trying to tell me something. I have to listen for his voice. I have to admit that I have a lot to learn. This seems like humility, and I suppose it is, but there’s something much more fun about it.
It’s an adventure. It’s a new road that appears over the hill. It’s a new book from my favorite author. It’s a surprise party. It is the unexpected appearance of an old friend.
This last one is, in fact, what happened.
My phone dinged and I checked my messages, expecting another communique of domestic bliss, like, – pick up some milk. Instead, it was a text message from the other side of the world. My friend, who shall remain somewhat mysterious due to his occupation, was going to be in town this weekend and was looking for a place to stay.
I quickly responded and all my well-considered plans were abandoned.
I have been called spontaneous, impulsive and mercurial. I made that last one up. I don’t know anyone who uses the word mercurial in real life but it sounded better than rash or flaky. I might even have earned the reputation, even though I’m generally dependable. But, for all my stalwart reliability, there is one great truth I have learned.
Good Things Happen!
While we have trained ourselves to expect the worst, good things happen all the time. And if I’m not on the lookout for them, they just slip away.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a beautiful sunset or a startling moonrise when I had other plans. When I look around to see who else is sharing this spectacle, I usually find people with their heads down, driving or looking at their phones or sitting in their offices. And then the moment has passed.
Or perhaps my dog whines and nuzzles at my elbow and, against my better judgment and schedule, I relent and take her for a walk. This one nose-nudge sets in motion a glorious walk on a beautiful day that I had previously ignored. Think about it. How many spectacularly beautiful days does one get in life? And how many have I missed sitting in a darkened studio?
What I have discovered is that few people ever end up where they planned. Success awaits somewhere along another way. We back into it or stumble upon it or get nudged toward it by someone who loves us. A friend of mine stumbled upon his extremely profitable career this way.
His wife thrust a paper in front of him and said, “This is perfect for you. If you don’t apply for this job, I’m never cooking for you in this kitchen again!” His answer?
“She’s a really good cook, so I applied and got the job.”
Another good friend of mine changed his life, followed his dreams and started a company all because of an Uber driver he met when his truck broke down. When I asked him what was wrong with his truck he replied, “I don’t know. It was always breaking down.” But this time the breakdown was a blessing.
Someone Else’s Plan?
So maybe our best life strategy will be planned by someone else. Or triggered by a text. Or instigated by some encouraging comment.
While we have our dreams, we honestly don’t know what we easily do that’s valuable to other people. It’s not valuable to us because it’s so easy. Or we devalue it because it’s fun.
In this case, the only way to discover our unique gift is for someone else to tell us. We’re too self-focused to see it. It looks backward in our mirror.
A Great Time
I can’t claim to have had a life-changing, career-starting time this weekend but I know one thing for sure. I couldn’t let the opportunity pass.
We had long, rambling conversations. We ate good food. We shared old memories. We reflected on the state of the world from an expanded perspective. We had a great time.
We probably won’t see each other for several years, though he invited me to stop by anytime I’m passing by the other side of the globe. I laughed. He laughed. But he repeated the offer when we said goodbye.
Until that moment, the thought had never crossed my mind. But now I know that it’s a possibility. There’s a tickling in my brain at the prospect. There’s a bit of wonder at what life might bring. Could there be more to it than imagined? Maybe it’s better than I dreamed.
My small ideas in my small room seemed to have stretched themselves and shaken out the kinks. My small idea of God might have enlarged. A beautiful sunset could be waiting outside right now.
But I’ll never know unless I go and see . . .