Long Term Plans

Do you make the mistake of being "distracted" because the events of today draw too much of your attention and energy?
by Kathryn M. Cunningham, MAPS | Source: Catholic.net

           You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it; we’ve become the society of “instant gratification”.  Wait more than two or three minutes for customer service, anger.  Spend more than five minutes at a retail counter, frustration.  Drive in traffic at a speed less than twenty miles over the limit, road rage.  I have even had people complain at the length of my phone message………it’s actually thirty seconds.   Yikes!  We are so hungry to get what we want and have it NOW that our entire perspective about how to live life has been dramatically altered.  Do you know that in Europe everyone takes four or five weeks vacation, usually in August.  One of my strongest memories from a couple of trips to Italy was that basically nothing fits into the “urgent” category.  It’s a different way of thinking and living.

            In our great haste to pursue and keep up with the frenetic pace of our modern American culture several things have fallen by the wayside. We have lost politeness, time for our neighbors, silence, relaxation and time spent together with family. But more than anything we have lost the idea of goals for the future, projects that take a while to accomplish and the idea that a skill level for a profession, a sport or the arts may take months or even years to develop.   We no longer value goals that won’t be actualized for a long time and the very idea that we can’t have things that we want, right now this very minute is anathema for most .  The idea of long term plans is quickly evolving right out of our culture.  Can you say; “debt crisis”, where the concept of saving for something over a period of time has been replaced by using fake money (credit) to reward oneself instantly  and readily ignoring the consequences of mounting unpaid obligations.

            We forget and/or fail to hear that in the life of The Father, there is no time.  He is the eternal here, now and future all wrapped up in one.  Marking time is really a human creation. We are present for just one miniscule slice of our life with God when we spend time here on planet Number 3.  In reality our true life is in eternity and the period we spend on Earth is really the segment where we are working out how that will go, with the assistance of the Son and the Spirit.   In our “right now focus” we fail to think about or even acknowledge that the “big picture” exists.

            This is not, however, a new lesson.  Let’s take a look at the precursor of the husband of Mary, Joseph of the Old Testament. His story is really quite incredible.  It is significant to be reminded that the Bible as a testament to our faith is an incredible book.  The Old and new Testaments work hand in glove to support and echo each other.  This is even more interesting when you consider that some parts of the Old Testament were written hundreds of years prior to the New.  Joseph in the Old Testament is the victim of family jealousy as a young man.  His own brothers “do him in” as a result of their envy.  Joseph winds up in the foreign land of Egypt and because of his faith and integrity becomes the official in the nation who is literally second in command next to Pharaoh.  This is even more astounding considering he is not even Egyptian, but a foreigner. Because of his position he becomes the administrator of all the wealth of Egypt including the crops.  His very wise business practices leave Egypt with an abundant, indeed, surplus supply of food when the rest of the word is caught up in a universal famine.  This becomes the perfect “set up” for Joseph to reunite with his family when his long estranged brothers come to Egypt to beg for food and survival like so many others at that time.

            If you read Joseph’s story in the book of Genesis you see that his success is really due to his refusal to become angry with God, despondent at his circumstances or vengeful toward his enemies despite the fact that they are his own family.  He is truly a man of “lived faith” no matter what he sees in front of him.  His grace and refusal to go to the dark side is why he wound up in such a powerful position.  Pharaoh marveled at him and elevated him.  His thoughts about his disastrous situation reflect a deep rooted trust in God and a clear demonstration that he had not the slightest trace of guile. 

            Joseph’s journey to the top began with being sold into slavery in Egypt but his understanding of the “big picture” is an extraordinary insight to the situation.  When greeting his brothers, years later, who were cowering in terror at his power he tells them;

I am, your brother Joseph, whom you once sold into Egypt. But now do not be distressed, and do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here. It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you.” (Gen 45:4-5)  In a later conversation as the cowering brothers beg for his mercy at their vicious crime he replies: “Have no fear.  Can I take the place of God? Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good….” (Gen 50:15)  Clearly this is a man who understands that as God shapes our lives the moment is hardly the most important point. The long term plan is of more significance than anything that we could be annoyed with for a few minutes.  With any amount of luck the result of our individual long term plan is to arrive at the place where we are closest to God and doing his will most effectively.  That’s really what the journey is about.  For some of us it is a very long trip and for others not so much.

              God has as trajectory for our lives.  The mistake we make is letting our attention and path be distracted by the here and now.   This can actually slow us down and make the journey tougher than it needs to be.  As a slave Joseph did not know what his fate would be, but he did not hesitate to cling to the prayers, hopes and disciplines that God wanted him to have.  This stubbornness eventually led him to a place of joy that he never could have imagined.  Not only did his attitude bless him, but his family, his entire tribe and scores of people from other cultures who were literally saved from starvation by Joseph’s wisdom.  We must understand that God’s long term plans are never for us privately, but rather for the community and how they will benefit the entire body of believers.   As a Christian our lives are part of a larger whole whether we like it or not.  We may not wind up as the administrator of a country but we will have influence and be examples in someone else’s journey.  So do not make the fatal mistake of thinking that the hardship you are enduring today is the only thing that shapes your life.  The picture is bigger and The Father will help you paint if you have the wisdom to understand that today is only a small segment of a longer journey that can wind up being richer than you ever dared to imagine. Never forget that you have a long term plan that contains God’s generous potential.  What you do, say and think right now, this moment, has everything to do with its success.

Copyright © 2011, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved

Check out some of Kathryn’s other thoughts @ www.atravelersview.org

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