It’s unlikely such a question will cause many dissolves into hysterical laughter, but the day a speaker asked: “Are we willing to allow God to alter our plans?” I couldn’t hold in my emotions. Close to two decades of living the football life have taught me many things, one of which is that no two years will look the same. The other is that our plans will rarely work out as we expect.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we won’t anticipate, speculate, and dream. Our coaches practice plan, game plan, prepare recruiting plans, and sometimes plan vacations. But within each of these plans, there is an unspoken understanding. These “plans” in reality are game-time decisions loosely held.
Being married to a coach I’ve learned flexible plans are the only plans that have a chance of succeeding. Dinner menus are great in theory until an extra coach joins us and tomorrow’s leftovers won’t exist. Holiday travel is budgeted for until the team has a fantastic season and Thanksgiving turns into a holiday meal at a buffet after practice followed by packing suitcases for Saturday’s game.
That game that you “should” win becomes a battle when a key starter goes down with an injury, and another player is ineligible after bombing a test. The opportunity to repeat winning out your conference is a distant memory along with your captain’s torn ACL.
Planning to stay put this year? Great, but that doesn’t mean your staff won’t move on, or your school administration agrees with your expectations. I planned the most adorable game day outfits for our first born. How was I to know that our August four-month-old would fit six to nine-month clothes and finish the season in twelve-month outfits?
Each team has a new personality and every new staff member shifts dynamics. Throw in the reality that our life seasons aren’t stagnant and it’s no wonder planning feels like wasted energy. Still, something in us can’t help but put expectations on the future.
While I’ve held some plans loosely through the years, others I’ve wrestled to surrender. Just this week I teared up thinking of two former staff wives who are pregnant, neither of whom currently lives close. While I didn’t plan on life lived with them forever, it saddens me to think of the fun that won’t happen juggling infants in the stands together. But if I hold too tightly to what could have been, bitterness will dominate, and I’ll miss out on the gifts in front of me.
It’s rare to speak with anyone who can confidently say they accomplish every goal they strive to achieve or that they see every dream fulfilled. For some reason, the coaching life seems to magnify the reality that life’s plans rarely work out as we expect.
If you are a list maker like me accepting that your lists may never include a page with all of the boxes checked can be hard, but experience has taught me something I hope you can cling to as I now do. While our plans will rarely work out as we expect they will often turn out better than we imagined. That first full-time coaching job, the one we saw as a short stop? A few years turned into a decade in the same location while coach received promotions.
That job path I planned on (even though I didn’t love it) because it fit well with our lifestyle turned into a different career I adore when a move we didn’t plan on came up out of the blue.
The staff transitions I didn’t want to see (because it’s hard to see people we love leave) ended up bringing me some of my dearest girlfriends when their husbands joined our open staff spaces.
That other surprise move, the one that tore into our hearts so deeply I wonder if the still identifiable scars will ever completely fade? That unplanned move brought us to a place where our children are thriving in ways we once dreamed they would but let die somewhere along the way.
That’s the beautiful thing about dreams and plans.
God knows our hearts, and he knows what is best for us. He knows that while some of us thrive in structure, our lists can also create false permission to establish boundaries and limit ourselves where more significant opportunities are possible. I don’t remember what we served for dinner the days we had additional guests for dinner on short notice, but I do remember the life-giving conversations, and that truth isn’t limited to small interruptions.
Remember Sister, plans are great but hold them loosely.
You never know what amazing opportunity you will find when you exchange your own plan for God’s.