Does this sound familiar? You offer your day to God first thing in the morning. And because you did that, things go pretty well and stay relatively sane. You’re cruising along, trusting God’s will, feeling his power in everything you do, and then — boom! The computer crashes or you run into a traffic backup when there’s no time to spare.
What happened to our plans? Where did our peace go? After all, we need to have expectations of what’s going to happen or we couldn’t survive. We need to expect the grocery store will be open so we can pick up something for supper. We need to expect the office will be there when we show up for work. We can’t do without planning, and planning means expectations.
But it helps if a part of us is open to the unexpected – because our expectations can work against us when God has something else in mind.
St. Francis de Sales said, “Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”
Maybe it means holding our expectations with less of a grip, with less of a feeling that “this is what has to happen, or else.” And to practice expecting God to redirect our plans sometimes and to trust that it’s for our own good.
Our first reaction can easily be “No, this can’t happen.” But what if our second reaction was that of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: “Oh, my heavenly Father, I know that these contradicting events are permitted and guided by Thy wisdom, which alone is light.”
Mother Seton developed a habit of recognizing God’s action when her plans and expectations were preempted – she learned to let him in when people and things contradicted her expectations, many times every day.
At the time when God is redirecting us, it feels like we’re driving along in our car and the passenger suddenly grabs the steering wheel and turns a corner we weren’t expecting.
It feels shocking and it feels like something that’s ours — my plans, my expectations are being hijacked. It feels territorial. And now our schedule to achieve something by noon is in the trash. Having our expectations contradicted never feels good.
But the Cross never feels good. It didn’t feel good to Jesus and it doesn’t feel good to us. If, like Mother Seton and Francis de Sales, we can see our expectations as being as being expendable when God wants to replace them with something else — and see it as a healthy part of our Christian journey, we will be learning to take up our daily cross and follow him.
Mother Seton put it this way: “Can you expect to go to heaven for nothing? Did not our Savior track the whole way to it with His tears and blood? And yet you stop at every little pain.”
We want to take the lead and we don’t want to follow anybody! But that’s not what Jesus asks of us. He asks us to take up our daily cross and follow him. He’s the only one whose expectations really matter. Because he is leading us to eternal life. We don’t know the way to heaven, but he does. And he told us plainly that picking up our cross hour by hour is the way to do that.
Finally, St. Katherine Drexel wisely tells us: “Peacefully do at each moment what at that moment ought to be done. If we do what each moment requires, we will eventually complete God’s plan, whatever it is. We can trust God to take care of the master plan when we take care of the details.”
We can best take care of the details when we plan well and accept the unexpected with grace. Amen?