Flexiblity or Plan?
How responsive are you? Do you set a plan and stay the course, or get caught reacting to everything that feels urgent? By nature I am a super structured person. I make plans and I don’t deviate. Organization is my gift, flexibility is not. If I’m responsive it’s often out of urgency rather than the priority of being available. But this is something I have been challenged by, because though it is good to be someone who follows through it is equally good to be available to respond to something different than the plan. This makes me think of Jesus feeding the 5,000. I relate to the disciples because their stomachs were starting to rumble as they watched the sun making it’s way across the sky. They were aware that Jesus was doing great teaching, but if I had been there I also would have had my eye on the clock and thinking through the logistical details of everything else that needed to happen next. When were we going to eat, and what were all these people going to do? How were they going to travel to towns to purchase food and come back? Or how would we pay for the food to feed them? And yet Jesus was more concerned with being in the moment, trusting that the logistical details would be worked out. His being in the present, didn’t prevent him from also looking ahead to the future. But his vision for the future also didn’t hinder him from being fully available in the moment. Jesus was able to do both: plan and be flexible.
This was true for our family a few years ago. We were presented with an opportunity to travel to Uganda with less than a month’s notice. It made us evaluate both our plan and our flexibility. Had we adequately planned our finances to be able to respond to an opportunity quickly? Had we clarified our longterm vision for raising our kids, so that we could see how this opportunity might fit into our plan? Did we have the relational margin to be flexible? Among other things this idea of being flexible within our plan grew us the most as we said “yes,” and jumped on a plane to Uganda with our three kids. Yes our kids had to miss school. Yes, this affected the other things we had to spend money on. Yes this was exactly the kind of opportunity to create vision for a life that was bigger than ourselves, and our suburban surroundings. Flexibility AND a plan.
Jesus also had a long-term plan. A vision of introducing people to a new way of love. Helping them change their thinking about rule keeping and relationships and who the God was that they really served. Jesus was walking out His vision with structure and not deviating. Yet He was also flexible. He knew when He needed to say ‘yes' and stay a little longer, or when it was time to go. He had only 3 short years of ministry, yet in the Bible we never see Him hurrying. He greeted each person and each mass of people with the same availability. He was present, He was approachable, He was flexible in the day to day while at the same time not deviating from His master plan of bringing truth, love, healing and salvation to God’s people. Jesus trusted His Father to work out the detail of feeding the hungry masses, and knew that by continuing to teach, heal, and be with them that they would actually receive both.
"When his disciples thought this had gone on long enough—it was now quite late in the day—they interrupted: “We are a long way out in the country, and it’s very late. Pronounce a benediction and send these folks off so they can get some supper.” Jesus said, “You do it. Fix supper for them.” They replied, “Are you serious? You want us to go spend a fortune on food for their supper?” But he was quite serious. “How many loaves of bread do you have? Take an inventory. That didn’t take long. “Five,” they said, “plus two fish.” Jesus got them all to sit down in groups of fifty or a hundred—they looked like a patchwork quilt of wildflowers spread out on the green grass! He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples, and the disciples in turn gave it to the people. He did the same with the fish. They all ate their fill. The disciples gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. More than five thousand were at the supper.” (Mark 6: 35-44)
Food AND increased faith. Physical care AND spiritual care. Flexibility AND a plan.
Our trip to Uganda was now 5 years ago, and it has become a marker for me in trusting God with the unexpected and growing in flexibility. I will always love a plan and structure, but I am also learning to ask God to open my eyes and prioritize who He places in my path. I will never abandon all my plans, but neither did Jesus. So I will continue to look to His example of being unhurried, available and flexible, knowing that is also a part of the Plan.