Wednesday, December 30, 2009

“Life is what happens to you…”

We enjoyed a lovely evening with friends who came for dinner last night. I woke up in a rather cheerful mood, a mood that lasted until I took a load of laundry down to the basement and discovered that everything that had passed through our garbage disposal and dishwasher the night before had backed up into the laundry tub and flowed all over the floor. Trust me on this one: dinner is much more attractive on the plate than it is ground up and spread over the basement floor.

I pondered my schedule for the day, the extent of my plumbing skills, and my modest collection of drain snakes. Obviously the clog was a major one, and located below the lateral pipe from the laundry tub. While I could certainly amuse myself for several hours trying to force a snake through the clog, a professional plumber with a powered snake could blast through it in minutes. It was time to reach into my toolbox and pull out my most useful tool of all, the telephone. Sometime this afternoon I will get to use my second most useful tool, the Visa card.

So here I am at my desk, an hour later than I had planned to be, rearranging my schedule for the rest of the day so that I can be available when the plumber calls. As John Lennon expressed it, “life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans.”

This is a very modest disruption of my plans, and I am not complaining. Last Sunday we learned that a dear friend was about to have emergency surgery to attempt removal of a malignant tumor on her brain stem. She went to her doctor on Saturday believing she had a sinus infection, and the next morning was on the operating table. They were able to remove 90% of the tumor and are hopeful that a combination of radiation and chemotherapy will take care of the rest, which I hope and pray will be the case – this lady has already been through more than enough.

It is remarkable that we begin each morning with relative confidence that the day will unfold pretty much as we expect it to, and even more remarkable that it usually does. But even a “normal” day will always bring surprises, some pleasant, some less so. I remember being with a group of clergy when one minister sighed and complained that he would have a much better ministry if it were not for all the unexpected interruptions. An older and wiser minister smiled and said: “the unexpected interruptions are your ministry!”

The test of our character and integrity often lies in how we respond to the things we cannot predict or control. Are we willing to set aside our plans and schedules to be present to a friend who needs us? Can we rearrange our priorities when life throws us an unexpected curve ball? If we are to center our lives in the things that matter most, we need to school ourselves in flexibility. And know when to call the plumber.

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