“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
Recently my wife, Charlotte and I had a chance to go to the St. Louis Science Center and see the Apollo 11 exhibit on loan from the Smithsonian. There were quotes from people who had been involved in the Space Program, parts from the Saturn V rocket engines that had been salvaged by billionaire Jeff Bezos, Buzz Aldrin’s helmet and gloves, a full size mock-up of the Eagle lander, interactive exhibits for kids, and—the star of the show—the Apollo 11 Command Module. I got to stand within ten feet of a vessel that had flown half a million miles, equal to twenty times around the world, and taken three men on a once-in-a-thousand-lifetimes journey to another world and brought them back safely. Wow. Just Wow.
I mentioned quotes from people who had been involved in the Space Program, and one that stuck in my memory was from Flight Director Gene Kranz: “There are times where the things you learn are things that you don’t expect. Often the plan you execute is different than the one you started.” Director Kranz and the other men and women who forged the path that led to the Moon had no idea what would happen along the way. They knew where they wanted to go but not how they would get to the final destination.
The following morning, Pastor Kim preached from 2 Corinthians 5:14-17, as the final entry in her recent sermon series on “change.” As liturgist that morning, I had the privilege of reading the words to the congregation, including verse 17: “Anyone who believes in Christ is a new creation. The old is gone! The new has come!” (New International Reader’s Version).
Change means that something new has come—or sometimes that something old has returned. The men and women responsible for sending men to the Moon experienced more than their share of change. Persons of faith are no strangers to change either. Abram—later known as “Abraham”—heard the voice of God say, “‘Leave your country and your people. Leave your father’s family. Go to the land I will show you.’” (Gen. 12:1b NIRV). We’re told Abram was seventy-five years old (vs. 4b). I’m younger now than Abram was and I wouldn’t like to uproot my life and move to an unknown destination but Abram obeyed God.
When Moses encountered God in the burning bush (Exod. 3:1-6), God told him, “‘I am sending you to Pharaoh. I want you to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. They are my people.’” (vs. 10 NIRV). That one moment changed Moses’ life forever. He became a leader for his people and one of the great prophets.
David answered his father’s summons to come in from tending the sheep (1 Sam. 16:12), little dreaming he would be anointed the next king of Israel (vs. 13). He was a simple shepherd from an ordinary family and the youngest of eight brothers. Nobody could have expected him to become king. But an encounter with a man of God, Samuel the priest, placed him on a life-changing path.
As Peter and his brother, Andrew, cast their net into the Sea of Galilee, they probably never expected Jesus to call them to become “fishers of people.” (vs. 19b NIRV). Nor did James and John, the sons of Zebedee, expect the same thing (vs. 21-22). But Jesus called them and they followed (vs. 20, 22). They couldn’t have foreseen the consequences of their decisions. They couldn’t have known where the path would lead. Their worlds were turned upside down in an instant. They began a faith journey that would last a lifetime and take them into many unexpected situations. They would witness miracles and experience God’s power.
These are only a few examples of people whose lives were profoundly changed by an encounter with the living God. They may have had plans and expectations for their lives but in each case God had a “Plan B.” God has a “Plan B” for your life and mine too. We can learn things we didn’t expect. We can do things we never dreamed and end up far from where we started. And along the way we can tell others about our journey so far.
“‘I know the plans I have for you,’ announces the Lord. ‘I want you to enjoy success. I do not plan to harm you. I will give you hope for the years to come.’” (Jer. 29:11 NIRV.)