Have you ever abandoned plan A? You couldn’t keep up, you didn’t fit the parameters, it wasn’t working so you had to let it go. I have, many times. I think I’m on plan E now. Even if it was the right decision, leaving plan A life can be difficult, and sometimes that plan A haunts you wherever you go.
In my experience, it doesn’t matter how healthy and thriving plan B is, there is always the aunt at Thanksgiving who feels the need to shame you for leaving plan A. “Tsk, I don’t know what is wrong with Jane. Doesn’t she know we’re plan A people? What is she doing with her life?” We all come from a frame of reference that says, “This and such and so forth is plan A, and this is what makes ‘good people.’” Sometimes we shame ourselves for giving up on plan A, and always wonder, “What if…” or “If only…”
When you’re a Christian sometimes that plan A is even heavier to carry and more shameful to let go. Especially if you grow up in the church and hear messages (good or bad) about what it means to be a Christian. Eventually you grow up, decide to keep Jesus in your life, and try to live that life for Him. When plan A fails, it’s like you’re failing Jesus. Often at this low point, the question arises, “Can Jesus still love me or use me, even if I’m living plan B?”
Samson was a plan A child. He had an anointing on his life before he was even conceived. His mother was barren, but an angel of the LORD visited her with a promise, “For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:5 NKJV) Samson arrives and has the hand of God on his life. Samson is just starting to show his strength and show that the promises of God will pay off after all, when he decides to marry a Philistine.
This was a major plan B move. Samson’s parents did not take it well. After Samson tells them about this woman they respond with, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” (Judges 14:3 NKJV) Circumcision in the Old Testament was the sign of the covenant with God that started with Abraham. It was a way for Israel to permanently show that they were set apart for God. His parents were probably thinking, how could someone with the anointing of God on his life marry someone who was not from the people of promise? Not only that, she was from the people currently oppressing Israel! If Samson had an aunt listed in this story she would definitely be saying, “What is he doing with his life?” Samson holds his ground, and he, along with his parents, start the process of marriage.
What I find amazing about this awkward family interaction is God’s perspective on the whole thing. Verse 4 conveniently gives us readers a peek behind the curtain, “But [Samson’s] father and mother did not know that it was of the LORD – that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.” (Judges 14:4 NKJV) God knew the potential wife was a political enemy, and socially distasteful. Yet, He didn’t see a plan B, He saw an opportunity for justice.
God didn’t look at Samson’s turn into plan B territory and see disgrace. God saw someone walking with Him and in alignment with His will. The people in Samson’s life were horrified and God was like, “Let’s do this!” Samson’s family saw, off track; God saw, no better place to be.
Now, Samson’s plan B choices devolved into one disaster after another. No one would say it was a happy ending. Samson marries the girl, her people are just as horrified as Samson’s people. So they try to trap Samson through a game involving a riddle about honey. They end up pressuring the new wife to manipulate him to find out what he is doing. She gives into the pressure, and sets Samson up for failure in the competitive trap. The Spirit of the LORD comes upon Samson, he kills a bunch of people, and goes home. After which, the new wife’s dad decides she should marry the best man from the wedding instead. Samson cools off and goes back for his wife only to find her married off. So Samson decides to light foxes on fire and set them off in the crop fields, vineyards, and groves of the Philistines. This starts an all-out war between Judah and the Philistines. Samson and the tribe of Judah triumph and Samson goes on to judge Israel for 20 years. (Judges 14-15)
Samson’s plan B turned into plan C and D pretty quick. He still had God’s anointing on his life, his life fulfilled the promise God had put on it. But I bet that fulfillment did not look anything like what his parents expected it to look like. There is a good chance Samson never lived it down that he married a philistine woman and created a national conflict through his hot headed decisions.
I find that a promise fulfilled by God never looks like what we expect. They look more painful and messy than we first hoped. Yet God is faithful. Really, if you think about it, there is a freedom in submitting your life to God. Because when you are in Christ your value doesn’t come from whether your life is messy or not, whether you did everything “right” or not. You can have a season or a life that is painful and messy and God can look at your heart and say, “It is good. I can use this to glorify My name and bring My light to others.”
God is creative. It looks different every time He uses our plan B for good. We could burn through every letter of the alphabet right to plan Z. God can use every plan, every failure, every success. If you are adopted as His son or daughter through Christ, the LORD will smile, look at you and say, “It is enough for Me. Well done.”