By nature, by nurture, and by training, I'm a planner. I've always been able to make a plan, work a plan, stick to a plan. It's one of my greatest strengths, a dedication that has served me well in everything from my former work in strategic development and marketing to my life now as a writer and a mother.

I can attest to the writer of Proverbs that it is wise to "do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house" (Prov. 24:27, NLT). I love an organized spreadsheet and a strong vision-mission-purpose statement. I will probably always be a planner because I find God there: it’s the gospel of joining with God to bring order out of chaos, perhaps.

Yet, I've experienced God most deeply when my plans are disrupted.

That’s how these things usually work. There’s a shadow side to our strengths, often discovered through some inciting incident outside of our control. We find God in the space between what we know to do and the unknown territory where our usual methods are useless. I call these moments holy disruptions. They’re the places where I run out, when I have to decrease, and then, wouldn’t you know it? I see Christ increase.

For me, motherhood has been the holiest disruption of all.

Right from the start, this mothering thing hasn’t gone according to plan. I've had eight pregnancies and yet I have four children. That was not the plan; I set out to have two well-planned spring babies. The grief, pain, and isolation of those losses were never in my plan. But in those moments, I discovered I was not forgotten. I began to piece together an understanding about suffering and the God who is not to blame.

For me, motherhood has been the holiest disruption of all.

I learned to make room for lament in my life, I developed a theology that included more than just the shiny-happy-answered-prayer cheat sheets, and God met me in the disruption of my plans, even though I still believe that those losses were never, are never, God’s heart for us.

By the time I had my first child, I was just so thankful to have a baby, I didn't care about the season or the day of the week or the moon's phases or anything except his or her safe arrival. Planning had become a luxury, far down my priority list.

Both our first baby and our last baby were unexpected blessings entirely. Ten years ago, we had just experienced another miscarriage and moved home to Canada for my husband to attend seminary. Our plans were simple: finish that degree in two years, plant a church together, and then, eventually, try again to have a baby. Instead we found ourselves expecting Anne right away. Her safe arrival changed everything. Hallelujah and oh help.

Article continues below

We had plans to be just passing through here and instead this place has become home. We stopped talking about community and became part of our community. With a reduced class load to accommodate working, it took Brian seven years to finish seminary. We released church planting altogether—God had other plans for us, it seemed, and we would have missed them if we had just “stuck with the plan, worked the plan.” And that radical act of staying put and raising our children changed us from the inside out. Personally, in these years, I was healed and set free.

But after our third baby, after much prayer and discussion, we eventually decided that we were done. I still had the ache, but I was at peace with our decision. We had only planned on having two; I hadn't anticipated loving motherhood as much as I did, so our third was our “just one more.” We were already off-plan, we reasoned. Let's just settle in with our three tinies: life was rich and full and we were satisfied. We began to make new plans for this season of our life, our season with big kids, with work, with church, and so on.

Four years later, I am writing this as the mother of an 8-year-old daughter, a 6-year-old son, a 4-year-old daughter… and a 6-week-old baby girl. So much for being a planner.

Anyone with tiny children will tell you: motherhood itself is an exercise in interruption. As I've been writing this article, I've been interrupted no less than 12 times. I've gotten up to make supper, I've bathed one, I've refereed disagreements, I've walked away for a day and then returned after everyone went to bed so that I could write in peace. Even my very sleep is interrupted with a newborn who needs to nurse.

As the years go by, I don’t mind interruptions much anymore. Motherhood helps me to relax a bit, move more slowly, hold my plans a bit more loosely. Mothering has always been my place of surrender, out of my control and yet such a sweet place of building trust and authenticity.

Sometimes disruptions in our lives are God-breathed; other times they are an experience of resistance or crossfire between what-is-and-what-will-be. Love and grace are there regardless. In Scripture, I see this so clearly. How Mary was disrupted by her miraculous pregnancy; James and John by the call to leave their nets and follow; the Samaritan woman by her encounter with Jesus at the well.

Article continues below

Over and over, up through the ultimate disruption—the crucifixion and resurrection—the people of God are disrupted from their plans and, in those moments, they discover their true life. Even Jesus' greatest miracles happened when he was "interrupted." Why would we be any different?

I'm still a planner. This is a good thing, I believe. It's brought great stability to my life and to the lives of others. But I know the limits to my plans are often the breath of the Spirit stirring in my life, if only I have the eyes to see and ears to hear and heart to receive it. It’s the Spirit who’s hiding in our very plain and regular sort of interruptions, not only so that we can minister to others, but so that the Spirit can minister to us.

It’s been an example to me of the upside-down part of the Kingdom of God that defies logic: only when our plans are disrupted, do we find God had another, better, plan entirely and we become more fully Christ-like and more fully human.

Sarah Bessey is the author of the bestselling Jesus Feminist and an award-winning blogger and writer. Her new book Out of Sorts: Making Peace with Evolving Faith is coming out later this year. She lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada with her husband and their four tinies.

[Image source]