In an episode of the radio program, This American Life, producer Ira Glass tells the story of asking a room of about 100 people “How many of you [in your life] are still on ‘Plan A’?" Everyone in the room, except one person, raised their hand. At 23, she was also the youngest one there.
You probably have your own “Plan B” stories. These are occasions, large or small, when the original plan just didn’t work out and you were forced to look for an alternative. The ability to find and work “Plan B” is often called "resilience." Christianity doesn’t have a corner on resilience. Indeed plenty of people from all sorts of religious traditions, or none at all, exhibit a healthy resilience in life. The centrally important Christian idea of redemption does, however, have strong resonance with the character of resilience.
Every now and then — usually with the gift of hindsight— Plan B shows itself to be more wonderful than what we’d first intended. But most of the time, we’re stuck with Plan B and a lingering sense of disappointment. We prefer things to work out the way we intended. We prefer things to go according to plan. We hate it when our plans don’t come together. There is a reason it’s called plan “B”. A “B” is not as good as an “A” -- or so it would seem.
“How can I redeem this situation that’s gotten all messed up?” That’s the question that resilient people ask themselves. The language is striking in its similarity to the Gospel. The work of Jesus is that of the redeemer. Jesus’ incarnation, his coming to be with us in the midst of all that’s good and bad about human life, is a working out of a divinely initiated “Plan B.” After all, the original intent was for humans to live in an abiding relationship with their creator, a relationship that was broken by sin. While the initial created order is a fabulous expression of divine creativity, the impetus to redeem it pushes the bounds of that creative drive to new heights. “How will we redeem this mess?” the Godhead asks themselves. We will buy it back. We will buy back life with life. And so it goes, the cross is a profoundly grave, beautifully conceived, expression of “Plan B.”
Like all of you, I like to have things go my way. But more and more, I’m beginning to recognize those many times when they don’t go my way to be occasions that invite unexpected creativity and opportunities to participate in an echo of the higher, wider and deeper work of redemption initiated and completed by Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection.
There’s always “Plan B.” Thank God.
Oct. 29, 2013
Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.