Public speaking is not my favorite part of my job, namely because I am afraid of it. Thus, I typically prepare for an event weeks in advance, writing out my talk, practicing it out loud multiple times in the kitchen while my dog stretches out at my feet, tweaking it and then tweaking it some more.
I also make sure I have detailed directions to the event location, my books and bags packed the night before, my clothes laid out, and my water bottle filled and waiting in the fridge.
My husband Brad says I am Triple Type A, which might be a bit of an understatement.
These are the preparations I made recently for a speaking engagement in Osceola, Nebraska. What I didn’t prepare for, couldn’t possibly have prepared for, however, was the fact that Brad would undergo an emergency appendectomy in the middle of the night, six hours before I was scheduled to depart.
I also didn’t expect to have to arrange, in a flurry of late-night texts and phone calls, for friends to take my kids overnight, nor did I anticipate having to leave Brad in the hospital three hours after his surgery, or to have to explain (sheepishly) to the night nurse why I wouldn’t be there to pick up my husband when he was discharged the next afternoon.
I also never expected to give two talks on three hours of sleep.
When my alarm jolted me awake at 5:15 the morning of the event, I immediately began to worry.
I worried about Brad.
I worried the hospital staff would judge me for abandoning my husband.
I worried I wouldn’t be able to string together two coherent sentences when I stood at the podium to speak.
Still fretting an hour later when I slid behind the steering wheel, I made a conscious decision. Sitting in my driveway with the engine running, I decided to trust God with everything that lay ahead of me.
“Here you go, God,” I muttered aloud into the pre-dawn darkness. “This day is all yours.”
You should know, I don’t like to trust God. I’d much rather trust myself, thank you very much, because trusting myself feels like control. And let’s be perfectly clear here: I like control (as is evident by my obsessive event preparation and my propensity for organizing my sock drawer).
But here’s the hard truth: we don’t get to control every aspect of our lives. We can’t plan everything to work out exactly as we desire.
No matter how much we prepare, bad things–big bad things and small bad things–happen.
The event in Osceola went well, in spite of the fact that my plan didn’t unfold exactly as I would have liked. I drank too much coffee, my heart thudded like a jack hammer, my feet sweated, and my second talk was breathless and rambling. But the ladies didn’t seem to care about or even notice my imperfections; they exuded grace and compassion. Back in Lincoln our friends rallied to our support, Brad recovered well, and if the hospital staff judged me for being a no-show, well, at least they didn’t do it to my face.
In spite of my obsessive planning, everything fell apart that weekend, but God stayed the course. The Lord goes with us; he doesn’t leave us, nor does he forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).
God doesn’t promise bad things won’t happen; he does promise he will be with us every step of the way.