Washing windows in the rain and other well-laid plans

Last summer I received an urgent announcement amidst the deluge of other emails that flood into my inbox every day. The message stated, in part, that a company was going to be present at the diocesan offices washing the outside of the windows the following day. It went on to say that if a workman should suddenly appear in our window, we should not become overly alarmed. I appreciated the fair warning, but in all honestly, I deal with far more frightening issues every day than this. However, it is still good to be prepared.

The following day it rained and rained and rained. Thus, I was surprised when I saw the window washing company was present and had already dispatched its workers to wash the outside of the windows – in the rain! Even more curious was the fact that the company was named after a fish. You can’t make this stuff up – how amusing! Who was in the fishbowl after all?

Admittedly, my knowledge of commercial exterior window washing is rather limited. But it seemed to me at the time that washing these windows in the rain would be rather counter-productive. How would one know if the windows were in fact cleaned? And the rain would make things slippery and potentially dangerous. So, after pondering this incongruity for a while, I approached one of the workers and asked him about this. At first he looked at me like I was thoroughly insane, but after he thought about it for a moment he said to me, “Look Father, sometimes you just have to wash windows in the rain. That’s life.”

Indeed. Oftentimes in life the circumstances do not line up with our well-laid plans. We plan a family vacation, and one of the children gets pink eye. A parish holds a festival and lightning hits the church steeple the night before. We plan the perfect priesthood ordination ceremony and discover that the cathedral is filled with scaffolding inside. (Ask me about the details.) Alas, my friends, this is life! As the poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

What do we do about this sorry state of affairs? I don’t know about you, but I usually get mad. And I try to force things back into the way I think they should have been according to my well-laid plan. And sadly, I usually wind up making things worse. Perhaps you do, too? It seems that we all need to learn to accept things as they are in life and to try our hardest to make the best of it. In other words, sometimes we just need to wash the windows of our lives in the rain.

Is it any surprise, then, that when God comes into our world to save us, the very same situation presents itself? Jesus our Savior comes under circumstances which required that many people change their plans. Our Blessed Mother, Mary and St. Joseph probably were hoping for something better than an animal trough and a barn for the birth of the Divine Son of God. But Jesus came anyway! The shepherds had to change their plans when Jesus came. And the Magi, too, had to accept the message in a dream not to return to Herod. Even the animals had to move over for the Baby Jesus. It seems that even Jesus had to wash windows in the rain – and he did so by washing away our sins so that we could be saved.

I wonder if the varied circumstances and events of our lives which did not turn out the way we had planned might have actually been moments of God’s grace? Most of us would much rather have had a different set of circumstances. “Why did that have to happen to me, at that time, O Lord?” This of course is a great mystery, but it seems that God likes to work in our lives not when everything is perfectly planned out according to our own will, but rather when things are a complete mess. Perhaps it is easier for him to get in when it’s raining.

A few days after the rain subsided and the window washers departed, I had a chance to look out of the windows in my office. They sparkled and were perfectly clean! This makes no sense to me – but it all worked out, even in the rain. Christmas is really about God coming to tell us that we are all worth it – and that he has come to cleanse and save us. Yes, even on the rainy days of our lives.

Fr. Girotti, vicar for canonical services and associate moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Green Bay, has just released a new DVD series, “Live Your Faith.” It is available through the Families & Schools of Discipleship Office, [email protected].