I’m a planner. When I drag myself out of bed every morning and crawl into the shower, my brain wakes itself up by making lists of things that need to get done or plans I need to make. This list starts with the very small and mundane (go to the store, grade research papers etc.) and by the time I’m out of the shower I’m alert because I’ve worked my blood pressure up to a boil planning out my future. Left too long in my own head, I end up ten years down the road planning out every detail of my life. There are many versions of my future life. Sometimes I go on to get my masters and then (if I’m feeling good about myself) my doctorate, winding up as a professor in a university somewhere across the pond. Other days I continue as a high school teacher but add acclaimed author to my resume. If I’m feeling burnt out by school, I marry a very nice rich man and we travel the world together. Welcome to my brain everyone, where everything is made up and the points don’t matter.
As someone who likes to know what to expect in her life, I have always had an issue with the idea of God’s plan for my life. Now, hang with me for a second. Remember the other day when I wrote about my fear of missing out on life? This plays into that. My head knows that God has a plan for my life that is bigger and better than anything I could imagine in a 10 minute shower, or even a whole day of dreaming and scheming. My head knows the Bible offers many assurances of God’s ultimate control in my life (Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11, Proverbs 3: 5-6, Psalm 37:7, Psalm 27:14 to name a few). My head has been taught all of the church appropriate answers for dealing with stress about the future.
It’s all in the Lord’s hands.
But, you see. My heart has not gotten the memo. My heart starts running around in circles when friends ask about my career plans. My heart rocks back and forth in the corner trying to process the many different paths ahead. My heart does not even like to consider life past age 30 because it can only take so much stress dealing with what might happen tomorrow. Platitudes like “It’s all in the Lord’s hands” or “Just trust God and He will show you the way” don’t comfort my worn out heart, they just add a heaping side of guilt.
Great, so not only do I not know where my life is going to take me but now I’m also a bad Christian for not trusting God.
Over the years, I have had several pastors and leaders teach me that waiting on the Lord doesn’t mean sitting on my hands and passively letting life happen. In Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, How to Get a Date Worth Keeping, he illustrates this point by saying if a single person is waiting on God to deliver the perfect partner to his or her doorstep, that person better be prepared to marry the mailman. Another way to think about it is this: If I want a job, I have to go in, ask for an application, fill it out, return it, and then go in for the interview. I can’t sit at home and wish for an employer to randomly call my number and offer me a job. I can’t even walk past a “Now Hiring” sign and pray that God gives me the job. I have to go in. I have to do a lot of the work to make something happen. My mother once shared this analogy with me:
There was a man who was being told to evacuate his home because a nearby river was going to flood that area. He refused to leave and said “God will take care of me.” Policeman came by and offered to help him leave and he said no. Later, as the water level rose and the man took shelter on his roof, rescue boats offered him help and he refused. He said, “God will rescue me.” Finally, a rescue helicopter flew over and tried to save him but still he refused. Unfortunately, the man died and when he got to heaven he asked God, “Why didn’t you rescue me?” and God said, “I tried! I sent the policeman, the boat, and the helicopter!”
This humorous little story reminds me that God requires me to be active even in my waiting. This way of thinking calms my heart and spirit because I like to have control in my life, and activity or busyness creates a sense of control. However, I begin to feel like I’m balancing on a tightrope between taking initiative and action in my life and putting God in the backseat (or heck, leaving Him on the curb). If left unchecked, I will take a lot of action in my life and cling to the idea that it’s what God wants me to do, even if I have totally hijacked His plan.
In my small group, we are studying the story of Joshua and the idea of following God’s plan has come up a lot. Recently, we were reading the part where God leads the people to the Jordan River and asks the priests carrying the ark of the covenant to put their feet in the water. Just their feet and then God takes care of the rest. He parts the river, two million Israelites cross on a dry land, and the journey continues. God fulfills His promise and takes care of His people. We discussed how putting our feet in the water was like taking that first step, being active in God’s plan. But what if they waded in further, just to be sure? Would God chuckle to himself and continue on with His plan? Or would He would wait like a teacher in a noisy classroom for His people to obey?
I have all these unanswered questions about how to follow God’s will. My biggest question overall is actually a gigantic general “HOW?” And not in a metaphorical-you just do sense- but in a step by step sense. How do I know when I’m following God’s plan and not just doing what I want? How do I know what He wants me to do? How do I separate what I think is right and what He is telling me is right?
How do I trust God?
I’m not asking this because I have any reason not to. I have no reason not to trust God. I’m asking this because I have been trying to hear God, listen for Him, and trust Him for about 14 years and I don’t seem to be getting the same results as everyone. So either everyone is lying to look better or I’m missing something. As a person who likes to be good at things, and who likes to know what’s going on in her life, this is a very frustrating feeling. How do I get the things I know to be true in my head to travel down and rest easy in my heart?
*Previously posted on Debunking Debacles on 5/18/2014