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Back Up Plans

What I'm Reading Today: Numbers 35-36

When I was a senior in high school, I thought I had my future all planned. I thought I would graduate from high school, attend Whitworth College (a private Presbyterian college that was just 20 miles from home), get an degree in elementary education, and spend my career teaching near home. After all, no one in my immediate family had ever left the area. I figured I had no reason to leave either.

For several months I relaxed because I knew I had a plan in place for the future.

In March of that year I participated in a piano competition in nearby Spokane. The adjudicator was a music professor from Pacific Lutheran Unviersity, a private Lutheran university across state. He liked my playing and asked if I could make him a tape before he left town in a few days. I did. "I'll see if I can get you a full ride to attend the college where I teach," the professor said. He didn't quite get me a full ride, but he did get me a scholarship that paid for over half of my college expenses.

I was shocked the first few days after all of this unfolded. All of the assumptions I had made about how the world was supposed to work – and what my role in the world would be – were shattered. I ended up moving 6 hours from home, getting a degree first in secondary education and then theology, and eventually moving to far off places like Denver and Los Angeles.

I learned an important lesson about life through all of this: things don't always unfold in the ways you might accept. The quality of one's life is determined by how you adapt to those changes.

In today's reading from Numbers, we are reminded the Israelites had initially been introduced to a set of Laws that included the teaching that if a person killed someone then that person's life would be taken as well. Everything seemed cut and dried.

Over time, however, they realized things were not quite so black and white. There were instances where someone took a life accidentally. It would be inappropriate to treat them like those who had intentionally taken a life: hence the need for asylum-cities where those who had taken a life accidentally could live.

That evolution in the Law was yet another reminder that life doesn't always unfold in the ways we expect. Often, we need back up plans to help us deal with emerging circumstances.

As you step back and look at your life today, I would ask, "How flexible are you? Are you someone who creates a plan for how life is to unfold and then rigidly adheres to that plan; or are you someone who can do what the Israelites did at God's urging – adapt to unfolding circumstances?"

Til next time …

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