Oh dear, none of us wants to hear that. Of course I know what’s happening tomorrow. I’m going to work, then meeting a friend for lunch. In the evening there’s a gathering I plan to go to. But, dear friends, I learned for myself last month that James was right !
I was driving through Concord, NH, at 6:30 am, on my way to pick up my daughter in Maine. Then we were heading south to visit with family in Alabama – especially my great-grandbabies. Instead, a large Nissan seemed to drop out of the sky. It collided with the driver’s side of my car, and pushed me into a lamppost. Two collisions, one airbag. Do the math.
Oh, we had great plans. We were going to celebrate missed birthdays. We were going to the water park. I was going to meet my great-grandson for the first time, and my great-granddaughter who was a baby when I last saw her. (This week she lost her first tooth.) We were going to catch up on news with my daughter and granddaughter, eat Southern cooking, and not worry about calories. We were going to mosey back up the Blue Ridge Parkway, and camp out in one of the cabins overnight.
But I had not the slightest idea what 6:30 in the morning the first day of our planned trip would bring. I didn’t even know. James was right.
After the crashing noises and uncontrolled movement stopped, I looked around at my poor car and said to myself: “Well, I guess I’m not in heaven!”
So instead of fulfilling the great plans my daughter and I had made, another plan went into effect. Thank God for saving my life, survive the first day, and then begin the slow process of healing. And be grateful that the timing was the best it could have been – I was close to home, and had a whole month of vacation time.
All is well. Things have worked out. I had no broken bones, and not a single bruise shows. I look unscathed. But I am impatient. “Tomorrow, I want to go here. Today I need a car to get such and such a place. On Saturday, I’m going to get out in the garden and do some weeding.” Didn’t I learn? Do any of us ever learn, I wonder? Have we gained any wisdom from James?
We have to provide a structure for ourselves, and for our days. There are promises to be fulfilled, and work to be done. James’ response is so appropriate: “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance.” And there it is. If the Lord wishes, my plans will come to fruition. Otherwise, something else might happen, something I might never have imagined or planned for.
Please don’t think I mean that something awful, like an accident, will happen. But maybe it will rain when you’ve planned an outdoor party, or maybe your beloved son will come for a visit on the day you’ve planned to visit Lake Champlain, or maybe you can’t find your car keys, so you miss a meeting you wanted to go to. So many surprises happen in our lives. So many things are happening around us that we’re unaware of.
James’ wise words come to us over 20 centuries, words that apply to our lives now as much as they applied to people’s lives back in century number one. “Come you who say today or tomorrow we will do such and such, instead you ought to say, if the Lord wishes, we will do this or that.”
It keeps us aware that even though our plans change, things aren’t necessarily random. Or, if they are random, they can be incorporated into new plans, if the Lord wishes.
I invite you to attend a place of worship this week, and listen to wise words that have come to us over centuries, and that still are true to our lives today. Receive wisdom and hope from them. And be in the company of others who are seeking wisdom and hope.
Rev. Dr. Marcia Dorey is pastor of the Halifax Union Society.