A few months back, while attending a memorial service, I heard a eulogy that has really stuck with me. The man who had passed away was being described by a loving family member as a person who had lived life always striving to be systematically spontaneous. That phrase was so unique that I haven’t forgotten it, and ever since then I’ve been trying to learn for myself what living that way might look like.
Consider that phrase again for a moment: systematically spontaneous. Those words don’t naturally go together. To be spontaneous is to live in the moment, being willing to change direction on a whim. To be systematic about something means to have a well thought out and organized plan. How can you have an organized plan to be spontaneous?
Before we try to answer that question for ourselves, let’s look at a passage from Scripture that provides a good example. At the conclusion of the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, he writes:
I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. (1 Corinthians 16:5–9, ESV)
This may seem like some obscure verse about Paul’s travel plans, but there’s much more going on here than meets the eye. Notice the phrases “I intend,” “perhaps I will stay,” “wherever I go,” I hope to,” and “if the Lord permits.” It may not seem like it, but this brief glance into Paul’s journeys, provides an excellent example of what it means to be systematically spontaneous.
To understand what I mean, let’s first state a couple of things about how Paul approached life. First, Paul knew God’s plan for his life. Paul clearly realized that his salvation also came with a calling to preach the Gospel and plant churches. Second, Paul aimed to make his plans line up with God’s plans. He took God’s “big picture” and systematically planned out the steps he must take to stay on track with God. Just in these few verses you can see that Paul put a lot of thought and planning into where he was heading next.
But here’s the coolest part – Paul planned to have his plans changed! He may have mapped out the road ahead, but he knew that God would have twists and turns for his route, different than what he could see at that moment. Not only did he know this, he was planning for things to change. In other words, he was being systematically spontaneous!
My point is this: Are you so focused on your plans, even if they are good plans, that you can’t be spontaneous and change direction when God provides an unexpected opportunity? To be honest, I often fall victim to this very problem. When I put a plan in place, I don’t want it to change. However, God’s plan for me contains things that I know nothing of today and am unable to predict or anticipate. Since this is true, I must be willing to change direction, at a moment’s notice, when God taps me on the shoulder and says, “Come, follow me.”
Today, make a plan to have your plans changed by God. Today, be willing to be systematically spontaneous.