In a recent workshop, I taught about planning to write a book I talked about the importance of having a deadline so the book would get finished. Although a basic concept, it’s amazing how much time we spend wishing for things but don’t make a plan to accomplish it.
I’m a natural planner, and every year as autumn turns to winter I find myself dreaming about what I want to work on next. Making goals and planning ahead give me purpose and my life structure. I feel comfortable and safe when I have a framework built out for what’s ahead.
However, there’s a risk to taking planning too far. Proverbs 27:1 says it straight, “Don’t brag about tomorrow, since you don’t know what the day will bring.” As much as I love planning, there’s no way I can know for certain what will happen next.
Planning and goal-setting is important, otherwise we’d have little motivation to work towards any sort of betterment and we would live in a constant state of reaction to whatever cropped up in our day. We’d be at the mercy of our environment and those around us. But what’s the value of planning ahead if you never know if it will work out or not?
The book of James has wonderful advice I come back to again and again. Some days I embrace it more than others, but from these words I’m learning to lay my plans at the foot of the cross and leave them with the Lord to take care of. In essence I’m making my plans and then letting them go.
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.James 4:13-16
By letting go of my plans I’m not forgetting about them, I’m releasing my expectations. I plan, but I stop obsessing, stressing and worrying about it. In fact, after I make my plans I settle in and enjoy the present. It’s an amazing shift in perspective.
In planning ahead and letting go it’s easy to swing too far to the other side and expect God to make all my wishes come true like some sort of genie. Plans must be balanced with action. If I make a plan to write a book but never sit at the computer and write, the plan is worthless. So I must find a way to balance planning ahead with living in the moment. Looking ahead without losing touch with the present. Building a framework and then working towards my goals.