Proverbs is full of some very interesting and very true nuggets of wisdom. It’s really wild to see how many of them have played and are playing out in my own life. When I was younger, I had all sorts of plans for my life. And it seems that especially when you’re young, people always seem to be asking the question: “Where do you see yourself in five years . . . in ten?” Yeah, I always had an answer for that. I had plans. I had goals and dreams. One of them was realized when I married my best friend. And another when I had my sweet baby boy. But a lot of other plans I once had have gone by the wayside. Even dreams that I believe the Lord originally led me to pursue. Why? Well, maybe I’m just a big dufus and I misread God’s instructions, and end up setting out in the wrong direction to start with. Or maybe He has had me just exactly where He wanted me, for a season here, a season there, to learn things I wouldn’t learn otherwise. While I am afraid the former is true sometimes, I think the latter is also spot on. Those plans He may have had for me at one time, while they were just what I needed at that time, were not His long-term plans for me.
At one time, my goal was to pursue a career in helping people, and I believed strongly that was what God wanted for me. I got my bachelor’s degree in Family Psychology, and applied to grad school to pursue my dream of being a Marriage and Family Therapist. I was pumped. I was excited. I was ready to go. And then after a year and a half of master’s work, God told me that’s not what He wanted for me. I was completely discouraged and felt like a failure. What about all that time and money I had poured into schooling? What about my dreams? What about my future? I had no idea what I was even going to do with my life.
And then God led me into the music field. Music had been my love for as long as I could remember, but I had chosen a different career path in college because I didn’t want to perform or teach, and music doesn’t lend itself to much else. But at that later point in my life, I came around to the idea of teaching, and I was really excited about it. I loved working with high school students, and had found that I had at least somewhat of a knack for teaching them. YAY! I had a new dream! I enrolled at the Seminary where I could get my master’s in the same amount of time that it would take to get a bachelor’s anywhere else. I did really well in the program and was excited about what was in store for me. Then one summer day, a year away from graduation, God simply said, “I don’t want you to go back to school.” It was out of the blue and totally unexpected. I didn’t even know what to say. He spoke to me clearly through some very close and trusted friends and confirmed this message over and over. And then as if to put an exclamation point on it, He withdrew all the funds He had been supplying for me to pay for my education. I was once again without a clue as to what path my life would take at that point. Dreams dashed. Plans down the tubes.
So, at that point I dedicated my time and energy to helping my husband with full-time youth ministry. This was definitely what God had for me for a season. We made such a perfect team. We get along so well and work together like a horse and cart. I absolutely loved doing it. We were both very passionate about ministry and about teenagers and we saw God do some amazing things in our midst. He was growing us and changing us and using us in other people’s lives to make a real difference. It was like I had a new dream–working with my husband was more than fulfilling enough for me; I didn’t need my own career. And then one day all that came to a screeching halt. God made it clear that’s not where He wanted either one of us anymore. I can’t begin to tell you how much that grieved us. Both of our dreams were shattered at that point. Why? I’m not sure we’ll ever know.
So what to make of all that? Our plans? Out the window. Our dreams? Evidently not to be realized. Our future? Shrouded in mystery. This really has perplexed me a lot, but I keep coming back to several verses:
“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” Jeremiah 29:11
“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9
” . . . being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
I know that what the Lord has planned for me is infinitely better than anything I could dream up on my own. I also know that where I am now is a much better place than where I would have been had I not listened to the Lord and instead gone my own way. I am so thankful God has allowed me to be a wife and mommy and right now, I see my purpose as striving to fulfill His will for me in those roles. Sometimes I still feel like a failure in my education and career paths, but God always reminds me that faithfulness to Him is never failure, no matter how the world might see it.
I don’t ever answer those questions anymore about where I see myself in so many years. I only see myself, with the help of God’s grace and strength, being wherever He chooses to put me, and doing whatever He tells me to do. That is all up to Him and His timing. And after all these years, I am at peace with that.
Philippians 2:12-13: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”