ONE, TWO, THREE…..GO!!!!
Those were the famous last words I yelled at the 2013 Women’s Retreat I was both directing and teaching. One of the activities we had planned was a large scavenger hunt spread entirely around the resort where the retreat was being held. The plan on this particular afternoon was the 100+ ladies, divided into teams of 8-10, would do the scavenger hunt and then return after about an hour when the next lesson and small group activity would take place.
Great plan, right?
Well, little did I realize that scavenger hunts are HARD to plan. One wrong clue, one incorrect step, and the entire thing is flamboozled, which is the best word I can think of right now to describe what happened next–flamboozled.
Within about 5 minutes the first confused cell phone call came in from one of the groups. My assistant frantically looked at me and began exclaiming that the hunt wasn’t working and the ladies were all ending up at the same place. Nothing was working! She was panicking and I needed to make a decision immediately.
I told her to call each group and tell them to return to the chapel. I would go ahead and teach while she and the other workers fixed the problems with the scavenger hunt, and then it could occur after my message.
I turned from her and began to get my thoughts together, praying for guidance in this turn of events, when I noticed the volunteer workers around me. One of the young men there who was doing all of our sound and media was calmly taking action, seemingly nonplussed by this new occurrence. My assistant and others, however, were not so calm. They were panicking. This wasn’t the plan and the plan had to stay intact. What will happen?
Then the groups started arriving back at the chapel and I saw the same two manifestations of this new course in the participants. Some of the ladies came back laughing and smiling, simply enjoying each other’s company, while some of them came back clearly upset that the plan had not worked. Why hadn’t it worked? What was going to happen now that the plan hadn’t worked?
It just so happened that the theme of this particular retreat was “The Amazing Race” on Hebrews 12:1-2,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
As I watched the women return, I began remembering a scene from one of my favorite Steve Martin movies, “Parenthood.” In this movie, Martin plays a man whose life is not turning out the way he expected. His job is wrong, his children are wrong (and he’s just found out that his wife is pregnant AGAIN), his family is wrong, his friends are wrong… In essence, he was feeling much like some of these ladies at the retreat were feeling when the scavenger hunt hadn’t worked: What was going to happen now that the plan hadn’t worked?
In the movie, just when Martin’s at his wits end and about to go to a Christmas play that his daughter is in, his grandmother walks into the room and tells the now famous “Roller Coaster Story”:
Of course, we can see that Martin has missed the point, though his wife hasn’t. In the next scene, they go to the play, and Martin begins to see just how smart his grandmother is:
Why, do you ask, did this particular scene come to my mind as I prayed for guidance in my next message to these wonderful women? What does the message of “Enjoy the ride!” from a secular movie have to tell us, as Christians, especially in terms of our running this race called life?
Well, the answer to those questions became the new subject of the message I gave in the minutes following the scavenger hunt debacle. I began my message by telling the women about the scenes from “Parenthood” that you just watched. Then I told them that there were some of them who were a lot like Martin in the movie. I watched them. I saw them come into the chapel frustrated and somewhat put out that things hadn’t worked out as planned.
They were not enjoying the ride. They were certainly running the race, but they weren’t enjoying it. Why?
The simple answer is a lack of trust in God, because a Christian who truly trusts that she serves a sovereign and loving God who is wonderfully in control of every aspect of her life will enjoy the ride. She’ll enjoy it because she doesn’t worry or fret about the unexpected, knowing that none of it is unexpected to God. She’ll be able to run the race set before her not in constant agony over how things don’t go as planned, but in joyful anticipation of both eternity and the amazing ride God has planned for her.
After all, God promised us in Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
He know the plans He has for us! John Piper once preached on this verse and said that the word that the prophet Jeremiah used here for “plan” is actually the word we might know as “plots.” God actually plots for His children! That’s beautiful!
The point here is this: Christians should enjoy the ride of this life–every one of the ups and downs, ins and outs–because they are all part of the plan of the Creator of the Universe, plans that are promised to work for our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28)
So life hasn’t turned out exactly like you expected? How are you going to respond to that? Instead of fretting and worrying, why not enjoy the ride of your life? God’s driving the roller coaster, and He is the perfect Operator.
Christian, Enjoy the Ride!