Yesterday we suddenly canceled our long anticipated trip to Japan. After listening to the news and consulting with our favorite daughters, we determined that joining our favorite son for his U.S. Navy promotion ceremony wasn’t worth the potential risks. So while sitting in the airport parking lot we called our friends at United Airlines and said we wouldn’t be making the trip.
Neither Linda nor I are prone to travel anxieties. We always take comfort in the expectation that the rewards outweigh the hassles. Not this time. Facing the prospect of picking up a virus in Tokyo and bringing it with us to our kids and GRANDkids in Okinawa gave us pause. In addition, the prospect of returning to the U.S., and living for two weeks or so in self-imposed quarantine, wasn’t a risk we could justify.
Our son reluctantly agreed. As the Director of Medical Services for one of our largest overseas hospitals, Joel foresees medical uncertainties there for some time to come. It’s a real bummer in a variety of ways. Joel pointed out we have never been able to experience the impressive and memorable events of any of his previous promotion ceremonies. This is the biggest one, since the rank of captain is the highest rank that a practicing physician can attain in the U.S. Navy. Now, due to the 16 hour time difference, we’ll have to enjoy the Monday ceremony in Okinawa here at home on Facebook live this Sunday night.
Joel, Nicole and the kids have really planned a big shindig. But as Mother Teresa wisely said, “Write your plans in pencil and give God the eraser.” Only God knows the future and He’s not telling. However, God does prompt us at times and caution us at other times. “I will guide you along the pathway of your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8).
We can never know the future with absolute clarity. What we can know is that God is at work in our present as we wrestle with our calendars for the future. I keep both a soft calendar that is synced on all my devices and also a paper calendar for ease of planning. Virtually every future event that I put on my paper calendar is literally written in pencil. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way. Guess what? I didn’t do that with my next two trips and they’ve both been cancelled. You’d think I would have learned the lesson by now that our future is in the hands of the Lord. As James wrote: “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” (James 4:13-14).
I’m not against planning, because thoughtful planning is vital to responsible living. However, our planning is always tentative. Circumstances change. As Oswald Chambers wisely counsels:  “Never run before God’s guidance…. Whenever there is doubt don’t … He guides our common sense.”
Curiously, I’m dragging right now with some sort of bug. I suspect that I picked it up on the plane when returning Wednesday night after speaking in Knoxville at Johnson University. As it turns out, with this bug, the vigilant screening of all passengers entering Japan may have prevented me from even entering Tokyo! That’s not the reason we suddenly canceled our trip, but I’m beginning to wonder if God wasn’t protecting me … and others once again.
Solomon once said: “Seek his will in all you do and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:6). Sometimes God even shows us which path not to take. That’s why it is wise for us all to only plan in pencil … and to always keep a big eraser handy!