Nothing in my life has gone according to plan.
At 18, I began college with boxes full of plans for my future. I kept metaphorical checklists in the back of my brain for how I expected my undergraduate years to play out. I began majoring in English Education with no plans to ever change my plans because changing plans was for people who didn’t know what they wanted out of life, and believe me, I knew what I wanted.
I made plans for my love life. I would meet a nice Christian boy at my nice Christian college, get engaged before spring as that wonderful MRS degree requires and be married off within a reasonable amount of time after graduation.
I planned for a life in the country. A job at a local school, a loving man by my side and perhaps some children on the way.
At almost 26, I am just finishing off the tail end of my student teaching in English as a Second Language. I didn’t have to change my major, but I did spend an extra 4 years completing a program in an entirely different area of education.
I am not married. Not engaged. Not dating. No MRS degree here. (Definitely no kiddos either)
I live in the suburbs and work in an urban school.
And while planning has its place in the everyday real world, we use it out of context to plan out years of our lives in advance.
James scolds us for doing so in the fourth chapter of his letter:
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (v. 13-14).
We make plans for our future because we arrogantly believe that we can determine all of the little things it takes to get us to that point in time with the accomplishments under our belt that we determine to be right for our futures.
Solomon talks all about making plans in Proverbs. In Proverbs 16 he writes, “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD” and also that “the heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (v. 1, 9). So all of this planning is a heart issue. We let our hearts lead us because they hold what we desire, but if our hearts are not filled with the LORD, we can easily be led astray. Lucky for us, God is in the business of changing hearts.
When I think about every little thing that has played a part in changing the direction of my life, how the Lord has stepped in and softened my heart to a new, unforeseeable plan that has brought me to an uncomfortably wonderful place, I recognize how truly arrogant I was at 18 to think that I was the exception to all the people out there changing plans. I knew what I wanted, but not what I needed. Like a child inclined towards ice cream and junk food for breakfast, I thought my direction was enough nourishment to take me to a place of greatness.
But God knows better. He has known exactly what I have needed all along. He knew that I would need to discover a purpose in my life outside of a career or a person. He knew that it would take me a bachelors degree, some personal missteps, and many long hours of questioning and confusion to learn where I shouldn’t be headed with my life. He knew that there would be a few things that I needed to learn the hard way, and when I think of the amount of time it has taken me to learn all of these things, I am completely awestruck by the patience He has had with me.
It’s all a lot like teaching. I could easily give my students the answers and tell them why it’s right, but they are never going to get the true message or receive the great blessing of learning if they do not come to that discovery on their own. It’s almost painful as a teacher to know the right answer and willingly stand back as your student makes mistake after mistake, but when they really get it, you know how satisfied they will feel and how much further that learning will go.
God teaches us in the same way. He doesn’t give us all His answers all at once. He lets us make mistake after mistake. He lets us be frustrated. He lets us give up. But He continues to leave it up to us. It is in this struggle that we grow and that we are being prepared for what He ultimately has for us.
At 18, I thought I knew what 26 held for me. I thought having all the answers would lead me to a place of peace.
At 25, I have no idea what 26 holds for me. I have no idea what I will be doing after December. I don’t know who the Lord will bring into my life. I don’t even know where I will be living or if my bank account will stretch enough to pay the bills.
But I have peace. Peace in knowing that whatever comes next, God is there. Peace in knowing that everything I have lived through these past 25 years has been preparing me for whatever comes in year 26. Peace in a sovereign God whose plans for me are so much better than the many plans that I have had for me as I navigate through a lot of strange and foreign places that I believe He has called me to.
I have peace because I have no plans and sometimes that is exactly what we need in order to fully experience the character of God. To feel His presence in a single moment of the day and know that His love and care for us extends to the breaths we take and not just the major life decisions.
I am learning to loosen my grip on my plans for the future that I have tried so desperately to control. I am learning to greater know and remember who God is. I am learning to let go and be still.