It was the first day in my new office—and there it was. Left anonymously by a friend. A plaque with the words of Jeremiah 29:11 engraved on it: “I know the plans I have for you . . . plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
That plaque was not just standing on my desk but speaking from my desk, with the Voice that brings peace. With less than absolute confidence, I whispered back, “I hope so, Lord.”
“God is at work . . . even using us!”
Well, the past two weeks have reinforced the message. Countless offers of help. Innumerable promises of prayer. Constant words of encouragement. All repeating the promise of the Lord, speaking undeniably to my heart and now unmistakably from my desk: “I know the plans I have for you . . . to give you hope and a future.”
The words of poet Sietze Buning’s mother, from Purpaleanie and Other Permutations, have hung over my desk for years:
Amen, Father, on your planning.
Amen, for you’ll see us through.
Amen, when the cross lies heavy,
Amen everything you do.
“Amen,” I whispered quietly.
Between then and now, I attended Synod 2011. The 188 delegates and dedicated staff in nine advisory committees made their way through the 695-page Agenda for Synod and brought it back in segments as a love-gift to God.
We noted the retirements of 47 ministers of the Word, acknowledged receiving 16 pastors from other denominations, endorsed the ordinations of at least 37 candidates from 2010, approved 28 ministry associate positions, and met and received this year’s Calvin Theological Seminary graduates.
Delegates remarked to one another about how exciting it was to hear from all our shared ministries. God is at work, fulfilling his plans. Even using us! We had more hope; we opened ourselves more boldly to the future.
A small group of us met with the fraternal delegates to our synod, representing “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). It was a glimpse of God’s plan unfolding.
I sat beside the incoming general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, Rev. Tom De Vries. A brother in Christ from Nigeria, seated across the room, said the sight of the two of us together was “the heartbeat of God.” He asked if he could take a picture to bring back to his people to show them that we can be one. I heard the heartbeat too, and I saw the plan a bit better.
The conclusion of our meetings repeated God’s promise more clearly still. Nearly 200 of us met with the more than 200 delegates to the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America to celebrate. We rejoiced over belonging to the Planner, being part of God’s plan, engaging in joint translation and publishing ventures, but most of all over the privilege of demonstrating some of the oneness for which our Lord prayed.
We celebrated what may prove to be the beginning of a family reunion. Then we walked in procession from the Covenant Fine Arts Center auditorium to the Calvin College chapel and worshiped together. We stepped up to the table, set with symbols of both the cost and certainty of eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
That is when I heard it most clearly: “I know the plans I have for you . . . plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
And I remembered that the plaque on my new desk had spoken even more clearly through its form than its words: in the shape of a cross—the sign of God’s promise kept.
I hear it much better now. I see it more clearly. I believe it more surely. The plan is good. Tomorrow is bright with hope. I look forward to the future. And I say this not with a whisper, but a shout!