Many of us have a desire for order. We make lists, set agendas, organize our time. Some of us, at times at least, schedule ourselves down to the last minute.
There is nothing wrong with organizing our lives and setting agendas and priorities for our time; to some extent we need to do that to get anything done.
But NCR carried a piece last week titled An Adaptable, Flexible Ministry that contained a good reminder for all of us. While setting agendas and organizing our priorities is fine, it becomes a problem if our “penchant for scheduling weakens our ability to be flexible, or if it diminishes our willingness to be engaged by the unexpected. When we value adhering to a schedule more than we value the needs of others, then God’s good people are ill-served.”
The article told a story about Henri Nouwen who decided to take a prayer sabbatical at a Trappist abbey to get away from the various demands on his time. One his second day, some students asked him to give them a retreat. Nouwen was bothered by this interruption to his time, but got no sympathy form the abbot, who told him that “all these students want is to be a part of your life in God for just a little while.”
The article explained: “What the abbot knew and what Nouwen learned is that disciples of Jesus are called to live in a constant state of being prepared, so that when someone who is drowning comes into our world, we are ready to reach out and help. That’s ministering.”
St. Vincent spoke of leaving God for God. The willingness to set aside what I have planned to be able to minister to the need of another. That is something we are all called to do.