The Plans of Men

On Monday I had a lesson in the limitations of human planning.

You see, I work in excavation, and it started the day by raining.

The plan was that we would make some good progress with the cuts and fills we still have to do. I run a construction GPS, so I’d be babysitting the big rock surface miner (“planer” in UK terminology) for most of the day, and setting up the robotic control system for the small miner.

But it was raining.

Construction GPS is a lot more precise than the sort you have in your car or on your phone, and the equipment is expensive. If it got struck by lightning, it would cost an appreciable fraction of my annual gross income to replace. And since precision electronics and water don’t make for a happy mix, even medium-heavy rainfall has the potential to inflict serious damage. The stuff is weather-resistant, but hardly weather-proof. This goes double for the robotic control instrument. It’s even more expensive than my GPS and it’s even more unable to work in rain. It’s a line-of-sight piece of equipment using a laser to triangulate position, and as soom as you get droplets of water on the lens, the laser diffracts and bends and throws the whole thing off-kilter.

It’s just not worth the risk to run it.

So I sat in my car, waiting either for the rain to stop or for my boss to call the whole thing off and send me home. All plans thrown into a cocked hat, because no-one has yet figured out a way to make rain start and stop on demand. This continued for about an hour before it stopped raining and some of us were able to work.

The “out of our control” nature of the weather and its impact on our plans brings to mind the Bible story my kids were learning in their Sunday School class this week.

In an ironically apt feat of timing: the calming of the storm.

If you’ve been around Bible stories for any length of time you’ll be familiar with it. Jesus and the disciples get into the boat to go across the Sea of Galilee. I’ve had the privilege of going to Israel and seeing Galilee, and only a people as uncomfortable with sailing as the Jews would call it a “sea”. But local meterologists tell us that the geography of the area creates some weirdly intense mini-storms on the lake, and it was one of these that they ran into. Even the fishermen Peter, Andrew, James and John are panicking and acting like they’re all going to drown, and they’ve been on that lake their whole lives. It takes a lot of weather to fluster a fisherman, particularly one with that level of familiarity with the area.

Jesus, meanwhile, is asleep. The disciples wake Him in a blind panic; they need all hands baling if they’re going to stand a hope of survival. Even for people who lived on the water’s edge, the ability to swim was hardly usual in that day and age.

Jesus then gets up and does something so remarkable that the disciples’ fear of the storm finds a new object. He tells the storm to be quiet.

In most of the film versions of the life of Christ, there’s a sort of bubble of tranquility around Jesus. You can hear Him say a gentle word. Somehow the effects of the storm are dampened by His influence.

I don’t believe that’s how it was. You see, I have children, and they can get fairly rowdy at times. “Peace! Be Still!” sounds to me like the equivalent of a parental “QUIET!!!!!!!”. It cuts through the chaos and gets everyone’s attention.

The wonder of it, of course, is that the wind and waves recognise His authority. The ultimate “beyond our control” part of the natural order, then as now, was the weather. It’s only in the last hundred years or so that we’ve had any scientific ability to even predict what’s coming with more than an hour or so’s warning, and we still can’t steer the track of a mild breeze, let alone a hurricane or a tornado.

And the weather itself recognises its Master.

There’s nothing beyond His control, so His plans, unlike ours, are certain. He’s the only One who is fully reliable, because He’s the only One that is not subject to events but in control of them.

Consider this an invitation to trust Him.

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