“Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht” is an old Yiddish adage meaning “Man Plans, and God Laughs.” Although I’m not Jewish, that has become a favorite saying of mine. I have learned over the years that a lot of things do not work out the way I expect, even when I make great efforts to plan and prepare. And while I remain a pessimist by nature, I still live with this illusion that if I plan well enough and prepare as much as possible, the outcome will be positive. But Forest Gump was correct when he observed that life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. I have experienced this more than a few times in my life. Believe me, that lesson has been learned. But apparently God decided that I needed a refresher course.
In January 2020 my wife and I planned a trip to Italy. Our plan was to travel in late September and spend two weeks in Italy. We had everything lined up to the last detail. And then there was Covid. That shut everything down. We thought, well maybe 2021. But Covid still had the world tied up in knots. So, we looked to 2022. With over two years of planning and research we had the perfect trip planned. Not that I didn’t have concerns. I always have concerns. I worried about our flights, the weather, were our accommodations going to be as good as advertised and worth the money? Would the tours we had booked be worth our time (and money)? Still with two weeks left before our departure everything seemed to be in order. We had covered all the bases. What could go wrong?
Off and on throughout my life I have had the occasional back ache. But nothing major. In fact, I’ve been blessed with good health and have been able to stay fit. But in recent years the back aches have come and gone more frequently. Early in the summer I’d noticed some of that pain radiating in my right hip. Just to be safe I went to the doctor. No big deal, no arthritis, just very tight muscles in my hips and thighs. He prescribed some physical therapy and after a few weeks all seemed to be well and getting better.
And then the unexpected. Two weeks before we were to leave, the hip pain returned. So, I ramped up my stretching program along with continuing my normal exercises of walking, using the elliptical machine and strength training. But the pain just got worse spreading from my hip into my thigh and my calf. Five days before departure I could barely walk.
So, we ended up back at the doctor. This time he x-rayed my back. The results were not good.
“Mr. Click your lower lumber spine appears to be the source of the problem. The pain in your hip, thigh and calf are from nerves in that area. It would be a very bad idea for you to take that trip to Italy. In fact, I am advising you to just rest and do as little as possible for now. We will schedule you to see our back specialist. In the meantime, let’s get an MRI. He will want those results when he sees you. Here’s a prescription for pain and a muscle relaxer. Go home.”
Ok God, I get it. Haven’t I had this lesson often enough? My plans and your laughter. I know there are things I cannot control. But who or what is in control of something like this? As a Christian, I know that you are ultimately in control. You are the Creator and I am one of your creations. But why this, why now? If you want me to go through back surgery or whatever this turns out to be, couldn’t you have scheduled it for some other time? Is this just all part of us living in a fallen, broken world? Or am I the victim of some Job-like wager made in the heavens? Given that Job was much more righteous than I am, that could not have been an even bet. Was it pride that motivated me to push myself too hard for too long over too many years? Did I ignore the warning signs? Is this going to be a lesson in humility? Is it time to just accept that I am getting old and this body is wearing out?
And God you know that I have prayed for patience. Is this how you want me to learn it? I have no choice now. I must wait for doctors and wait for tests and wait for a diagnosis. And then more waiting for treatment, possibly surgery. If surgery is required, then wait through a long recovery period for an uncertain outcome. So, I must learn patience…and hopefully find some peace along the way.
God, are you telling me to listen more to you and less to myself and others? That I tend to pursue the things I want to pursue and then ask you to bless them? Maybe you are telling me that I’ve had things backwards. When I pray: “Thy Kingdom come… Thy Will be done… On Earth …As it is in Heaven”; that doesn’t mean the wind will always be at my back and the lights are always green. Perhaps it really means Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven according to your purposes and your plans, not mine. Not my will, but yours be done.
God has a way of getting our attention one way or the other. I may wish that he had chosen another way of getting mine, but I can only trust that He knows best. And God is not laughing at me. He is just loving me...and for that I am most thankful.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55: 8-9