“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans”
- Woody Allen
I started teaching Sunday School this year. A group of 5 or 6 wonderful, wonderful wide-eyed girls (age 7 to 12) stare expectantly at me in our small church clubhouse, every week. Every. Week.
I don’t know why they’re all girls. It just worked out that way. Since my siblings are all capital-D Dudes, this is definitely new territory.
For better or for worse, I can be a wishy washy teacher. I know it, and so do the parents. I’m a goofy, guitar-strumming, United-Churchy-Half-Agnostic-Historian-Jesus-Feminist, so honesty and nuance rule the day: I can teach biblical literacy. I can teach general values. But, no, I don’t know what exactly really happened, or what exactly we’re supposed to get out of these stories. I have no indoctrination-esque end goal, not really. I just teach what I understand, whatever that means. And maybe the girls will be inspired and Jesus it up and light a candle. Or maybe, they will raise their hands and shout “Shauna, that’s craziness.”
As long as they’re using their minds and their hearts at all times, it works for me.
And so it goes: Insert life lesson here. Insert scripture here. We make thank you cards. We celebrate holidays (and normal days, too). We laugh and we read and we use way too much glitter. Money is raised for charity. Songs are written.
And sometimes the lesson doesn’t quite work. Sometimes there’s apathy, or chaos, or I am overshadowed by the air hockey table. (Why is there an air hockey table, you ask? I don’t even know. Because Canada.)
“Okay girls, I’m going to turn away from you for 10 seconds. When I turn back I want to see you all sitting calmly on the couches. 1…2…”
Last week, we were starting the Christmas story. Yeah. I was worried. The whole “Mary” narrative is a difficult subject for a United-Churchy-Half-Agnostic-Historian-Jesus-Feminist (who really doesn’t want to explain the word “virgin” to your 8 year old). My carefully-crafted plan was to talk about how our plans and goals are good, but God is great—basically, it was this article steeped in Bible-talk.
Yeah, my plan was to talk about how shaky plans are. I’m an irony whiz, clearly.
I pulled out the markers and paper, suggesting that the girls draw pictures of their lives 20 years from now. They took to the project immediately, drawing themselves as Olympians, doctors, zoologists, geologists, rebel graffiti artists… the works. Some of them were very careful, drafting their dreams in pencil first. One was hyper-detailed and ambitious, another was just plain goofy. By the time I was ready to explain the point of the exercise, they were too excited by their dreams to really care about my message. I wrapped it up quickly:
“You guys get what I’m saying, right? No? Yes? Good. Okay.”
My plan hadn’t really worked. Their plans were strewn around the classroom in bright, goofy marker.
And somehow, it was all perfect anyways.
“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” I used to see these words as an invitation to avoid plans altogether. But as I felt my classroom shake with the joy of best laid possibilities, I reconsidered.
What’s wrong with making God laugh, exactly?
God probably likes to laugh. Laughter is good. Silliness and vulnerability and hope are good.
Plans are not bad in and of themselves. They’re actually kind of beautiful. Those dream-fueled drawings in my Sunday School classroom were beautiful. Same with the laid-back, loving lesson plans. Same with your fallible to do list, daydreams, and drive for the future.
Plans happen when our gifts and dreams and brainwaves and feelings manifest into a motivational timeline. And when those plans don’t totally come to fruition, that doesn’t mean they were wrong. It just means something else became right. It means that life is beautiful in a very different way than plans are beautiful.
If you can be idealistic enough to plan something, but reasonable enough to not be debilitated by disappointment when that plan doesn’t work out, then do it. Do it. And then change it. And then change it again.
For my part, I’m going to continue making and breaking lesson plans. The girls are probably going to keep dreaming and suggesting. We’re all going to keep changing. And that’s okay. That’s okay.
We’re just making God laugh. I’m sure (S)He doesn’t mind.