When Your (Good) Plans Get Ruined

Couple romantic dinner plans

I had my plans. But here I was again as they fell apart, getting bent out of shape, buzzing like the bee,

That booms against the window-pane for hours

Thinking that the way to reach the laden flowers

My laden flowers? A few quiet hours alone with my man on Friday night. That was my plan.

How My Friday Night Plans Fell Through

6:15 pm– I plopped the groceries on the counter, set the oven and kicked off my shoes. I’d gone straight from work to fetch the boys and a friend, then to settle them in at the waterpark. Now came the sigh.

And the ringtone.

Mom, you have to come get us! Sam’s really sick. He’s just sitting here with his down and I don’t feel so good either.

Weary Mama rolled her eyes. Why don’t you get some fresh air and take it easy and we’ll come get you in 2 hours. Good-bye.

6:23 pm– Undeterred, I rubbed the salmon, poked the potatoes and set them baking. I was tearing greens when the phone rang again.

Hi Mom. He’s really sick. You need to come get us now. Please. 

This wasn’t my plan. I hadn’t even sat down. You can last an hour. Besides, $50 is a lot a money for one hour of fun. 

Hanging up sounds heartless, I know. But that son can be Chicken Little, and the caring adults were all around.

6:35 pm– Jim got home and the salmon was done and my phone dinged again. My sister, also at the waterpark,

Can I bring the boys home? Sam looks pretty sick.

Jim called back. I filled our plates, lit a candle and sat down.

And Why I’m Glad

I wasn’t glad. I was grumpy and mad and starved for a quiet dinner alone with Jim, who was calm on the phone as I sat stabbed at my salmon.

They’re on their way. Your sister’s bringing them home.

We were eating our last bites as in they walked in smiling. All better. Their friend Andy wanted to stay and play games. So we cleared the plates and set out Codenames. And in between obscure teen-ager clues, they introduced us to their music and soon Andy had Sam at the piano plunking out tunes.

I wasn’t so blind to miss those. Those answers to prayers I pray almost every day. That the boys would enjoy using the gifts they’ve been given, make and be good friends, and that we’d have more fun as a family.

Then this: Do you trust my plans are better than yours?  I ruined your plan to answer your prayers. I nixed your quiet night to give you this. 

Trust His Better Plans

It all boils down to trust issues, again. I need a consistent trust. I trust God to wake me each morning and bring me safely to heaven, but I can’t trust him with my dinner plans?

This is not to say we shouldn’t make plans. Only  that we should hold them loosely. James wrote, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:15). So sit loose. As we make our plans for tonight remember that God may have different and better plans than ours.

My plans have come crashing down before. And I’m starting to understand that when, in infinite wisdom and matchless love, God ruins my plans, he’s really wanting me to trust him. Because, 

God knows infinitely more than we do, and can do infinitely more than we can — should we be surprised in the least when he has planned differently than we have? Plan on it. He has, and he will…Disruptions become welcome reminders that God is real, that he is almighty, and that his plans always prove wiser than ours. 

Marshall Segal, “Few Are the Plans of Many

The disruption of my Friday night was God’s kind reminder that he is wiser than me. If I’d have had my quiet night, I’d have missed His better plan.

 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.

James 4:13-15

Why I Pray about Little Things, even Dirty Dishes

Dishwasher open
Answered little-thing prayer.

Should we bother to pray about the little things? You know, for lost cats and clear skies and skinned knees?

Why should we pray for things that don’t seem to have a tight connection to spiritual growth, which we know is our greatest goal. Because, after all, great praying saints like Paul prayed far more for big things like inner strength than for relief from little circumstantial things.

So why would we pray for little things like broken dishwashers and dirty dishes?

Dirty Dishes

The party was over, the guests had gone home. The table was cleared and the counters were clean. And the dishwasher was filled to the gill with table service for 13.

But then, at 10:45 Friday night, with a rinse barely long enough to loosen shreds of beef and traces of greens, it stopped. A red OE showed up and it did its little dingy thing and five minutes into the cycle it quit. Barely into its fourth run, our brand new dishwasher was done.

What’s a girl to do when the dishwasher won’t wash? (Pray?)

Well, I read the owner’s manual. OE, it said, means “Not Draining Error.” So I opened the door and, sure enough, gray water surrounded the drain.

What’s a girl to do when the dishwasher won’t wash? (Pray?)

Troubleshooting

Rinse the filter was the obvious first step. But the stagnant pool remained. So it wouldn’t wash because it it wouldn’t drain.

What’s a girl to do when the dishwasher won’t wash? (Pray?)

I read the next steps: Clean the disposal or air gap. Inspect the drain hoses for kinks. I sighed. We have no disposal and where’s the air gap? And how would an out-of-sight hose suddenly kink?

Still, I turned the kitchen sink faucet off and on and on and off and swished the dirty dishwasher for good measure. Then I closed the door and pressed start, again. It didn’t.

What’s a girl to do when the dishwasher won’t wash? (Pray?)

Hon? I called to Jim, The dishwasher won’t drain. I know you can fix it. Will you please try? By now it was after 11. I trusted my handyman husband, and I went to bed.

Still Dirty

Morning broke bright but the dishes were still dirty and gray water was still undrained.

What’s a girl to do when the dishwasher won’t wash? (Pray?)

I hurried out for my jog before a track meet that would mean a full day away. When we got home, I beelined to the dishwasher. But I knew- the nose knows- even before I opened the door that Jim couldn’t fix it.

What’s a girl to do when the dishwasher won’t wash? (Pray?)

He got home and after we ate, I unleashed my best pep talk: You can fix anything, Hon. You’re so good at figuring these things out. Can you please try again?

What’s a Girl to Do?

But Jim was weary- he had a lot on his plate. More, in fact, than those ripening in the dishwasher: a broken kitchen sink faucet he’d already replaced twice this month, an air conditioner that wouldn’t cool, and plugged gutters to boot.

He sighed and opened the manual, again. Then he took out the filter, again. And sighed, again- and walked away. I did those dinner dishes by hand.

After all, what’s a girl to do when the dishwasher won’t wash? (Pray?)

The smell of the that load filled the kitchen each time the door was opened. And I knew these greasy old dishes were truly small potatoes. But it sure would be a gift this new dishwasher of ours could make them clean.

Then I knew- what a girl’s to do when the dishwasher won’t wash.

I Called

Pray.

Jim was sitting at the table sorting through his mail and the boys were already in bed when I walked over. Hon, I announced, I think we need to pray.

So pray we did. Father God, would you please help Jim figure this out? Would you please give him insight to drain that water so the dishes can get washed? Please open his eyes to see what’s wrong. And we’ll give you all the thanks and all the glory. Amen.

Then I went to bed with a broken dishwasher full of dirty, stinking dishes.

He Answered

I started the coffee Sunday morning, then walked three steps to the dishwasher. I winced as I pulled open the dishwasher.

The dishes were clean. The water was drained. God had fixed the dishwasher. And I had never been happier to unload a dishwasher.

How the Dishes got Washed

So that’s how the dishes got washed. I prayed, God answered. In a way the details don’t matter, but in a way they do. God fixed it. But he did so by answering my prayer, by giving Jim insight late Saturday night.

Turns out that the drain stop in the kitchen sink needs to be lifted to run this new dishwasher. If it’s down, the water won’t drain and in seconds the dishwasher quits. Jim was just poking around and, on a lark, pulled up the drain stop in the little sink. And that was the fix.

But, would God have done it anyway? I mean, if I hadn’t prayed on Saturday night, would Jim have had the insight to lift the drain in the little left side sink? Maybe. Or would we have paid a repairman to tell us to lift the drain stop sinks full of dishes later? We’ll never know.

But I do know I’m glad I prayed for this little thing.

Steering Wheel Or Spare Tire?

I do know that, once again, I called, he answered, and my strength of soul he increased (Psalm 138:3). I do know that I called to him in the night of trouble, and he delivered me(Psalm 51:15). And I know I will cast my cares on him because he really does care for me (1 Peter 5:7).

So now I ask again: Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire? I mean, are your hands on it always- even in little broken dishwasher troubles- or only when you’re stuck with a flat on the side of the road?

Can you think of anything that is big to God?

So why again, do I pray for little things?

A woman once approached the British preacher G. Campbell Morgan and asked, “Do you think we should pray for even the little things in our lives, or just the big things?” He answered, “Madam, can you think of anything in your life that is big to God?”

That’s answer #1. Because really is there any truly “big” thing with God? With the God who spoke and the worlds came to be, for whom the nations are like a drop in the bucket, who enabled a virgin to conceive?

Now here are reasons #2 and #3- We pray for “even the little things” because it opens us up to a double grace. God gets the glory and thanks, because the giver gets the glory. And, we get the joy of feeling as if we had a role in it. God instituted prayer, Pascal said, in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality.

(Not) Impossible, So Pray

God gets us into impossible situations- situations we can’t fix by ourselves- take Abraham and Sarah, or the Exodus from Egypt, or Elisha surrounded by the enemy, even little things like dishwashers that won’t drain- to display his power and goodness. In other words, to reveal his glory.

So pray. Pray, pray, pray, pray. For big things and little things, pray. For his glory. And because our God cares about little things.

Because just maybe, to Him, all things are little things. And because He is able.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21