Someone once said: “When life goes as planned, I am disappointed because God’s plan would have been better.” As one who likes order and structure, I can’t say my first reaction to an event that follows a nicely written schedule, is disappointment. Nor, I would admit, is it a foundational theme of our ministry to systematized MIT engineers. But it is certainly a humbling reminder that I am not, in fact, God, even of my own life.
Perhaps the more theologically sound version of this quote is from Isaiah 55:9 “As the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
And I have found ample daily evidence for the truth that when life goes awry, yes, God’s plan certainly is better.
The Best Laid Plans
I didn’t plan to minister to college students. I didn’t plan to be in Boston, or even America. I didn’t plan to send Asian students back to their home countries with a Bible and the Holy Spirit. But in spite of rather hard-headed individuals like myself, God’s plans cannot be thwarted.
In my hands was the meticulous minute-by-minute for pre-semester retreat, just beginning, when there was an unexpected knock. On our porch stood a very widely smiling girl who introduced herself in slowly pronounced syllables as Jeanie, visiting from China. Instantly at my back with puppy-like enthusiasm was a student named Mario, who had just returned from an internship in China.
“Ni hao!” His smile challenged the size of hers. Then he started chattering away in Mandarin. To imagine the absurdity of this picture, my surprise and Jeanie’s, understand that Mario is Mexican. But with the gift of language, Mario drew Jeanie quickly into our circle of worship and fellowship. And she was not about to leave.
For Mario and I, this retreat was for getting to know Jeanie. She glowed when she talked about how a month ago she met Christian students on the beach, and they had introduced her to her Savior who forgives all her sins. When when she saw activity in our house, the same house those Christian students lived in, she excitedly returned to find community.
I was curious to know what her response to the Bible would be, and when asked she rushed home to bring back the precious gift that the previous students had given her. We opened up to the red words of Christ, commissioning His disciples into all the world, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” but she was stuck on the word “baptize”.
She looked it up on her phone. “To sprinkle with water?” she asked.
Thank the Lord that He gives us words when we don’t know what to say because after our butchered explanation she jumped to her feet and grinned “Can I?!” Mario and I looked at each other in surprise. This was as close to the story of Philip and the Eunuch that either of us had ever come.
She loved the Lord, confessed faith in the three persons of the trinity, understood and accepted the forgiveness of her sins, and wanted to make a public declaration of her faith. I can only imagine the joy and exhilaration in the early church when hundreds were being baptized daily.
Mario then began to describe a beautiful wedding ceremony between Jesus and His spotless bride. He asked her who she would invite to this wedding ceremony. “My American family in China,” she answered. We both looked at her with cocked heads. “They are Christians, and they are very kind to me,” she said. “But I never thought about God or Christianity before I came to America. They are who I want to celebrate my baptism with.”
Mario and I were overjoyed. What a gift that her “American family” would be able to witness the fruit of their Christ-likeness. How often we have to wait until we meet Jesus to witness that fruit and see the way God planned out every step from the start. But every once in a while He packages that fruit up with a bow on top and we get to share in its sweetness.
Kelsey is a second year intern with Cru campus ministry in Boston, working mainly at MIT. This year she will be trailblazing a new internship in the northeast called Freedom58, a partnership between Cru and International Justice Mission, to bring Biblical Justice into Christian conversation at universities.