This contemporary proverb was quoted to me recently by the owner of the English Tea Shoppe at Mashpee Commons, as she described the route she and her husband had meandered around the world before they ended up on Cape Cod. I suspect that most of us identify with the proverb’s awareness of the mystery of life and that “the best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew” (Robert Burns). I went to university in England to study law, and switched to working in public relations for the government, then after falling in love with an American ended up in Massachusetts studying for the ministry. Law is the epitome of reason and logic, but love is the stuff of imagination and poetry. The most reasonable and logical of human plans will go astray if they come from our own egotistical and anxious attempts to control the future. But where we live in humble partnership with God’s Spirit and the principles set forth in scripture, we will be able to live in trust that “all things will be well” (Julian of Norwich).
Yesterday I attended the Price lecture at Trinity Church, Copley Square, Boston, given by the great Old Testament scholar and theologian, Walter Bruggeman. He contrasted the ideology of scarcity and the ideology of sharing found in the Bible. One of his many challenging points was that the Sabbath was intended to break the cycle of anxious working to accumulate more and more (ideology of scarcity). Sabbath means to stop working and rest for a while. It means to be refreshed and renewed. God himself took a Sabbath after the work of creation in Genesis 1, so who are we to say we do not need Sabbath? Sabbath is a way of expressing our trust in God – everything does not depend on our plans and our control of the situation we face. In reality so much in life is beyond our control, and we are much the wiser when we recognize that truth.
Harvey Cox, in his book, Turning East, writes that the theological foundation of meditation in the Bible is the principle of Sabbath. When I sit down to meditate and focus on the mantra, I am saying to God that I will try to set aside my own strategizing and planning for the next 20 minutes or so, and let God’s Spirit do the shaping and molding of my life. Meditation provides a mini Sabbath each day to allow God’s Spirit to establish those habits that will boost trust and sharing and reduce fear and control. Meditation also helps me to accept the mystery expressed in the contemporary proverb above, “if you want to make God smile, tell God your plans.”
By the way, if you are on the Cape, the Tea Shoppe is an excellent place for lunch or afternoon tea. I highly recommend the steak, mushroom and Guinness pie for lunch.