[Editor’s note: Today’s article, by Conejo’s own John Downey, is part of the “Our Story” class series. John’s timely meditation, in the middle of our summer trips and vacations, invites us to balance our grand plans with the humble recognition that God ultimately oversees our lives.]
“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless.
We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip.”
~John Steinbeck, 1962
Summer is time for road trips for the Downey family. We just returned from an epic 6,624-mile driving trek from Simi Valley to Chicago and back. It is my job to craft the itinerary and, in so doing, take the risk that comes from planning things that others on the journey may not appreciate or leave things off that others would love.
In planning these trips I remind myself of the following: consider the needs of others, you can’t please everyone, and God laughs at our plans. The trip that Steinbeck refers to in the quote above (taken from Travels With Charley in Search of America) resonates with me. I’m the tour master – dashed against the rocks of reality. I often plan too much and then fret when things go by the wayside. There are holes on the maps of our plans that you wouldn’t notice, but stand out like a sore thumb to me (Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia and the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas). If you are a planner, like me, you might recognize that this Steinbeck quote could also refer to marriage, parenting, retirement planning, or life in its entirety. We planners are at risk of forgetting who is the great orchestrator of our journey.
For lack of daring imagination and a great deal of unknown, I couldn’t have predicted how my last twenty years of life have gone. Why should I believe to know God’s plans for my next twenty years? God is good, all of the time. Because I firmly believe in his omnipresent love and faithfulness to me, I should provide no space in my life for worry and for fretting over the outcomes of plans. I’ll keep planning, as I should, but I only think of myself as being at the helm of a sailing ship with God providing wind for the sails, according to his wisdom, which is too great for my understanding. After all, the best laid schemes of mice and men, often go awry.