This is part six of my Panama reflection series. A little over three months ago, I was in Panama on a mission trip with a group of pastors from Virginia. This series of articles is my effort to share some of my experiences while also debriefing from my trip. Enjoy.
These days, my church could better be described as the arm sling capital of Virginia. We have so many members who have had shoulder surgery and are in the big, immobilizing arm slings. Those injured cross many different age brackets, and serve as a very clear reminder to us all that our bodies are fragile and not meant to do certain things!
“Surely Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.’ Matthew was in such a hurry to write down the Beatitudes that he simply missed this one.”
I learned this phrase from my dad who was a pastor for more than twenty years. He always would say this phrase when change was coming or when something did not go as planned. Many of you may have heard him say it and now use it yourself. I am one such person. It has become one of my go-to phrases as a church staff member. It always draws laughter from people, but it is one of the hardest lessons to learn, even for me.
I prefaced this series on my Panama mission trip with an article about “My Plans or God’s Plans” and hinted at this sentiment. However, what I wrote then pales in comparison to the rest of the week. Let me say upfront that what I am about to say is not bad, it was just “blessed are the flexible” moments…
Broadly speaking, nothing happened like we, or the Panamanians, thought it would. From travel arrangements to lodging accommodations to schedules to venues to expectations, something was always different. Sometimes the changes took place at a moment’s notice. One such moment was about when I was going back to the airport. The itinerary Pastor Felix gave me had plans for me schedule all the way to Friday. The only problem was that I was flying out of Davíd back to Panama City on Thursday. Another such moment was when we were scheduled to go to a children’s hospital in Davíd and the hospital was quarantined so we couldn’t go. Another such moment was when our Wednesday plans changed literally that morning and the Panamanian pastors took us to Boqueté where we could all be together.
Admittedly, I was upset by some of the changes that took place and relieved by others. Regardless, when I told the story to my wife, she very quickly reminded me “Blessed are the flexible…” Sometimes I love to use phrases to remind other people about what God says, but I am hesitant to apply those same statements to myself or simply miss the lesson intended for me.
In the book of Job chapter 22 verse 21 it is recorded, “Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you.” Now here, Eliphaz is chastising Job assuming Job has done something wrong which is why so much heartache and disaster had come upon Job.
However, the message is still very viable: Prosperity is not always about material things. Being at peace with God regardless of your circumstance is a wonderful thing. We should submit to God and be flexible in adjusting to His plans. The more we resist God, the more likely something is going to get messed up and need repair, much like the shoulders of our congregation right now.
Let us not be rigid toward God’s plans, but rather show flexibility and move with Him as He accomplishes His work here on Earth. Sometimes our plans need to be flexible so we can enjoy the greatness of God’s plans. Anyway, I was just thinking…