Fr. Roy Cimagala .
WE cannot overemphasize this basic need of ours to make plans and strategies. If we have to develop ourselves as we should, if we have to be truly productive and fruitful, if we have to take advantage of everything in life, whether good or bad, to attain our ultimate goal, then we have to plan and strategize our moves.
Especially for the youth of today, this skill is very necessary. We have to help them in developing this skill. We have to rescue them from the state of being just at the mercy of circumstances. They have to be taught how to shape their life by having a clear vision of their goals and means, and instilling in them a sense of direction and purpose.
Sad to say, many times we allow ourselves to drift away and to be carried away by external forces in our environment, leaving us completely at their mercy. We obviously are conditioned by certain elements, both inside and outside us, but we are meant to direct our own lives too, since we are the captains of our own ships.
Of course, it is God who is the main shaper of our life. But we have to do our part. So we have to make sure that God’s directions are adequately corresponded to not only with the appropriate attitudes and virtues, but also with the appropriate structures, plans and strategies that vary according to changing circumstances.
We should have some clear vision of our goals and means and timetables involved. That way, we would have a better grasp of how to identify and handle issues, problems and challenges. That way, we would have a good sense of priority, especially nowadays when we are faced with many competing options.
Making plans and strategies may require some time and effort, but it’s an investment that is all worth it. The little time and effort required can actually multiply our time and make our efforts more productive at the end of the day. It’s like the little rudder that St. James talked about in his letter. (cfr. 3,4) Our plans and strategies can have the power to accomplish great things, like a rudder giving direction to a big boat.
In these complicated times of ours with so many issues, problems and challenges spewing out, the need for plans and strategies have become more indispensable so that we can study them better and know exactly what to do with them. The way things are now, these issues, problems and challenges really need to be studied well, making due consultations when necessary.
What can help in this regard is to cultivate the practice of making daily examinations of conscience so we can make a review of what happened during the day and come up with the appropriate plan and strategies for the following day.
Since these examinations of conscience are usually done at the end of the day when we most likely would already be tired and exhausted, we really would need to motivate ourselves to give due attention to this practice. That little investment of effort and sacrifice will surely give back a tremendous return.
We have to be wary of our tendency to simply fall into routine, not making the appropriate offense-and-defense moves so necessary in our life. These plans and strategies will greatly help us to stay on the right track toward our true ultimate goal in life with as little a distraction and deviation as possible.
We need to have the proper plans and strategies to cope with our need to grow in the virtues and to handle our weaknesses and the temptations and sins that are proliferating around.
To be sure, with plans and strategies, we would have a greater chance not only to be clear with our goals but also and more importantly with God himself. And that is the only thing necessary in life in the end.
A blank check from God. That’s what God has practically given us. He has created us to be his image and likeness. And he has given us everything to reach that goal—our intelligence, will and his powerful grace, and everything else that is for our own good.
In a sense, his precious project with us is well funded. Now it is up to us to write whatever amount we are going to put on that check by way of our free correspondence to his will for us.
Whatever amount we write there, it will always be honored.
This is a truth of our Christian faith that we have to be most aware of. Besides, even if along the way, we bumble and commit all sorts of mistakes and blunders, God knows what to do with them, deriving something good from them. It’s a win-win proposition. But it is also true that in spite of this great privilege, we can choose to lose.
We need to be more aware that our life here on earth is a matter of how much we correspond to God’s will and ways. It is a matter of giving ourselves to him, and because of him then also to the others. It’s a matter of losing ourselves in order to win him, to become like him as he wants us to be.
That is why Christ has been consistent in saying that we need to deny ourselves, carry his cross and follow him. (cfr. Mt 16,24) More vividly, he said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14,26)
We have to lose our fear of losing ourselves if only to have God, to be with God, and to be like God as he wants us to be. This might sound like an insane proposition if considered in human terms. But God assures us that what we seem to lose would be gained back many times over.
“No one,” he said, “who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions, and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mk 10, 29-30)
We need to have the conviction that it is all worthwhile to give up everything for God. We should never be afraid because he will take care of everything. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” Christ said. (Mt 6,33)
Ours is simply to correspond to his will as fully as we can, imitating the example of Christ, our way, truth and life, who gave up everything, including his life, to do his Father’s will to save us. And that giving up led to the resurrection.
Like Christ, we should correspond to God’s will even to the most extreme of conditions. St. Paul, another good example of how one should very generously correspond to God’s will, gives us an idea of the extent to which we should be willing to correspond to God’s will.
“I have worked much harder,” he said, “been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move…” (2 Cor 11,23-26)
We need to train ourselves to give ourselves to God more and more, even if it is slow especially at the beginning and in small degrees. As long as it is steadily done, we can end up writing a big amount on the blank check God gives us.