There’s an old Yiddish expression when translated goes like this: “Man plans. God laughs.
I don’t know if God was laughing yesterday. I know I wasn’t. But my plans for the day abruptly changed.
In yesterday’s post, I wrote about a lesson that I was going to present at the Charlestown Road church in New Albany, Indiana. This lesson was prepared. The powerpoint completed. My sermons note sent. And, of course, my plane ticket purchased and boarding pass printed.
I awoke before 5:00 AM, quickly dressed and left for the airport. The traffic was light. There were no long lines in security. There was plenty of time for coffee and breakfast at Tim Horton’s.
I arrived at the gate early and spent time looking over my lesson. It was going to be a wonderful day. Seeing old friends and spending some time with fellow preacher Roger Shouse.
However, things began to change when a “slight delay” was announced because of mechanical problems with the aircraft. It soon turned into 2 hours. Then 4 hours. During that time I was trying to rebook on another flight. Every flight on every airline was full, with a standby list. Bad weather in the Northeast was further complicating matters.
After making two connection changes in Charlotte, that would get me to Louisville just in time to preach, the departure was changed to 5:00 pm. Game over. I wasn’t going to Indiana. There would be no sermon by Ken Weliever at Charlestown Road that night.
There was nothing to do, but get my refund, and go back to Welland. I was tired. Frustrated. Disappointed. And felt bad for Roger and the brethren at Charlestown Road.
Yesterday’s unplanned, unfortunate experience reinforced several life lessons.
I was reminded some things are beyond our control. That the very best plans and preparations can be upended by unexpected changes. While some circumstances can be managed, altered or controlled, there are some situations that render us powerless.
I couldn’t help but think of the Bible warning, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring” (Jas 4:14).
Whether we care to admit it or not we all live with some degree of uncertainty. Mechanical failures, weather changes, and the choices of other people can drastically alter our well-devised plans for the day. Or even our lives.
Some things just happen. Even in our well-ordered world, not everything occurs in the way we would normally expect. The Preacher of old put it this way: “ Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all” (Eccl. 9:11).
Ah, time and chance. What are the chances my flight would be delayed? Or canceled? I don’t know, but in 50 years of preaching, I have never missed an appointment. But it happened yesterday.
I was reminded there were some things I could control yesterday. Like my attitude. My response to the American Airlines personnel who were doing their best to correct the situation. My treatment of fellow passengers suffering the same fate. And following the Bible exhortation “be patient with everyone” even in the midst of an adverse situation.
There is a tendency for us to think that our priorities are more important. Our plans greater. And our problems bigger than others. When I told the gate agent that I had to get to Louisville, that people were depending on me, he wistfully looked around at the crowd and replied, “Sir, there are a hundred stories.” He was right. Vacations were being interrupted. Business trips hindered. And family reunions delayed. I wasn’t alone. And I was not more important than others whose lives were also disrupted.
When I returned back to Ontario, Mike Stephens learned of the situation and insisted I present my prepared lesson to the Wellandport church. So, I preached “Helping Those Who Have Fallen,” last night. Just 900 km farther away than I expected.
Maybe God was, at least, smiling.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman