“… self-initiated plans are but defenses … They are the means by which a frightened mind would undertake its own protection, at the cost of truth. … The mind engaged in planning for itself is occupied in setting up control of future happenings. It does not think that it will be provided for unless it makes its own provisions.” — The Course in Miracles, from Lesson 135, 14.1-2, 15.1-2.
Everything that has ever come to fruition in my life were the things that I did not plan. If you think about it for a moment, you may see that your own life has unfolded in this way.
I always felt that I would become a writer, but I did not plan to be a journalist. I always felt that I would use my words to speak and teach, but I did not plan to become a minister. I always wanted to sing and play an instrument, but I never planned to become a performer with a weekly gig!
All of these skills and talents that God has given me have been used in some way to help not just myself to make a living, but they have helped others as well. My articles and books have helped others, my preaching and my singing and songwriting have helped others. All those years ago, if you had told me that all of those skills would converge as the pastor/teacher/leader/musician of a small church in Columbia, South Carolina, I would have laughed out loud. That would certainly not be MY plan.
But, here I am. Unplanned … and deeply blessed.
Other things have come about unplanned. In 1996, frustrated by all the anti-gay rhetoric, laws and exclusion of LGBT people from church and society, I wished that someone would found a magazine specifically for LGBT Christians. I wished and wished and wished, until one day, I realized that was my calling. I founded Whosoever that same year, and for 18 years, it served as the premier, and pioneering, resource for a community in sore need of that kind of encouragement and healing.
I never planned to do any of that, but it deeply blessed me and the world.
Last year, I hatched a plan for Whosoever … to turn it into a subscription membership service. This was my plan and it failed. I’ve had all of my plans fail, because those plans were created out of fear and not out of love. Everything in my life that I have become, when I wasn’t planning on becoming it, has been created out of love.
I once took a job at a university because I was afraid that all of my freelance income would dry up, or my church would fold, or I’d never make any more money through my writing and speaking and singing. That job lasted for three miserable months before I realized I had made a huge mistake. My self-initiated plan came about because of a frightened mind, one that believed it must be planning and scheming and strategizing all the time about how to make money and survive or I will go hungry, be forced to live outdoors and die!
What all this has taught me is that when I act out of fear, when I make those self-directed plans, I am not trusting in God. I don’t believe that God plans every moment of our lives, but I do believe God has plans for us, plans to prosper us and use our gifts to prosper the world, if we’ll only let go of our self-initiated plans and wait for the unplanned nudges, intuitions and guidance that is available every moment.
This is what the Course in Miracles teaches, that guidance is available, but only in the present moment. When we’re stuck in the ego mind that needs to figure out how to survive, we’re overlooking the tools already given us in this moment to not just survive, but to thrive.
When we refuse to trust God in this present moment, we prevent the change that is needed in our lives. People tend to hate and fear change, but without change, we will die — if not physically, then spiritually. Refusing to change is what leads us to concretize our doctrines and dogmas and refuse to trust God to do a new thing not just in our own lives but in the world around us.
If we can become fully present in this moment, the Holy promises to give us everything we need “to guarantee a future quite unlike the past, without a continuity of any old ideas and sick beliefs,” the Course tells us. It is only by trusting in the present moment that we can rid ourselves of the old ways and beliefs that have held us back from fulfilling the true potential we were meant to bring to the world.
“If there are plans to make,” the Course says, “you will be told of them.”
This is why I shut down Whosoever this year, even though the decision was difficult. I was no longer in the place that I felt God called me to be. Shutting down the magazine felt right, because I have changed. I can no longer speak the language of traditional Christianity with conviction or authority. I still follow Jesus, but the traditional teachings of his life, death and resurrection no longer resonate with me. I am following a new path and I don’t know where it will lead, but I am trusting in this present moment that I will be told what the next step will be, then the next step and the next.
This kind of living requires us to remain connected to God in each moment, to step outside of the ego mind that frets and worries and plans and schemes. I do not have to “come up” with some idea to make money or figure out some topic for a new book. I will be told what my next step will be. For now, I rest, and trust and tune in to this present moment. The past is over and the future but an illusion. I can hear echoes of the past, but those old ideas only seek to keep me tied to ego. I cannot hear the future, for it has not yet arrived. The only true voice is what is spoken right here and right now. That voice tells me to trust, to stop resisting or defending, to be still and know.
“Heaven asks nothing,” the Course says in this lesson. “It is hell that makes extravagant demands for sacrifice.”
Heaven is any present moment when we become aware of our oneness, when we can see the innocence of others and ourselves and hold no one guilty of anything. That is only available right now.
Hell is the ego mind that keeps us stuck in craving, wanting, grasping, planning and scheming to get everything we think we need or desire. That is the mindset of lack, of greed, of getting without giving.
I have been in hell for far too long. When I reflect back on my life, I realize heaven is in the unplanned, in the saying, “Yes,” to life’s offerings of love, and allowing God to unfold my life as God sees fit.
“While you made plans for death,” the Course tells us, “God led you gently to eternal life.”
And so it is.