The life of every person is an unfolding story. The plot, however, is not always clear. We plan our lives, but our best laid plans are often turned awry. It has become a cliché that if we want to make God laugh, we tell Him our plans. Our petty plans are spoiled by the whims of chance or sabotaged by the plans of others. And when our plans fail, we adopt another plan that is subject to the same fate.
God has His own plans for us. It would have been negligent of Him to cast us into the world without providing us with a plan. Although we must keep on planning, we must acknowledge that God’s plan has top priority. “Plan One From Outer Space,” we might say, is part of God’s gift to us. Our plans– from one to nine–are inevitably short-sighted and marked for failure. “There is no road has not a star above it,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. When we subordinate our plans to God’s, we begin to discern the development of our authentic story. Our road to meaning requires supernatural guidance.
Our plans are linear. They proceed from step to step. We plan a picnic, but it rains. We plan to get to the theater on time, but get caught in traffic. We plan a delightful vacation, but the weather is persistently inclement. We do not have possession of the Master Plan that coordinates all plans. The linear plan is for one, God’s Plan is for everyone.
If rational plans can end in disappointment, they cannot end with pleasant surprises. We cannot plan to be surprised. When C. S. Lewis writes about “being surprised by joy,” he is alluding to something that cannot be planned. Joy-filled surprises come from outside of planning. Life would certainly be dreary if there were no surprises. Moments of happiness take us by surprise. They seize us; we do not seize them. In addition, there would be no humor without the element of surprise. “The secret to humor is surprise,” said Aristotle. Excessive planning leads to a gloomy and humorless life. We need a higher plan, one that we cannot conceive on our own.
The poet Robert Browning has made the remark that “all human plans and projects come to naught”. When one plan is fulfilled another plan takes its place. Graduation from high school gives way to graduation from college, securing a job, buying a house, and so on. One flies to Chicago, then taxis to a hotel, proceeds to the dining room, finds his room, etc. Each plan, when fulfilled, reaches its destination and steps aside for another plan. One’s destiny, however, remains unfulfilled. When we plan, we have a series of destinations in mind. God has our destiny in mind, and it is one that can be fulfilled only by adherence to His moral laws. And that destiny is to be fully ourselves, what God intended us to be.
The Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, relates a dramatic instance of a plan gone horribly awry. He describes what happened to a female doctor, a member of society’s upper crust, who confessed to him that she had poisoned her best friend in order to marry her friend’s husband. She had been confident that her crime would go undetected and that she would not experience any remorse. A series of misfortunes, however, proved her wrong. Her new husband died shortly after her marriage, relatively young, and his daughter from his earlier marriage withdrew from the fold as soon as she could. According to Jung’s account, even animals, including her favorite horse and pet dog, turned away from her. She was so struck by the silent verdict of both her friends and her animal companions, that she was plunged into unbearable loneliness. Jung’s judgment, which he left for the reader, is harsh, though not unrealistic: “She was a murderess, but on top of that had murdered herself. For one who commits such a crime destroys his soul.”
Plans that violate God’s Commandments are essentially incompatible with one’s destiny. Our plans must be consistent with the moral order. If a person wants to make God weep, one might say, tell Him that by having access to abortion allows a woman to gain control of her destiny. God’s Plan is convergent in the sense that it is co-ordinated in order to accommodate the plans of more than one person at the same time. Thus, God has a plan that synchronizes the destinies of husband and wife within the context of marriage, as well as the destinies of a mother and her unborn child. God’s Plan harmonies a multiplicity of individual destinies. Only God could arrange things in such a manner. Our own linear plans belong to the realm of tunnel vision. On our own, we are incurably myopic.
Abby Johnson’s exposé, Unplanned Parenthood (2010), reveals the severe short sightedness of Planned Parenthood. God’s plans for the unborn are thwarted by abortion. He is the Creator; abortion is the de-creator. Abortion contradicts both the destinies of the mother and her unborn child. Planned Parenthood’s “plans” are regressive. They cannot be coordinated with a higher destiny. They implode upon themselves. Abby Johnson learned what Planned Parenthood has yet to learn, namely, the supremacy of God’s Plan. In her words: “Everything about my journey since running out of the Planned Parenthood clinic into the waiting arms at the Coalition of Life house was unplanned—by me, I mean. I look back in the journey and see God’s fingerprints all over it.” She goes on to say that the one seed she wants to plant in the hearts of everyone who hears her story it is that “God is worthy of our obedience and trust. When we step out in obedience, God rolls out the red carpet (p. 207).”