January 14, 2015

When God Ruins Your Life

I am a planner. I own a planner. I like to make plans.

I have been this way for a long time: organized, thinking ahead, prepared. It’s one thing that made me an okay teacher. (And it’s one thing that makes me somewhat of a very boring person.)

Favorite part of my birthday? 
Probably sharing a greasy-faced breakfast with this weirdo.

But the unfortunate thing about being a planner is that sometimes my plans don’t go as planned. And that can be devastating.

I have had my entire life planned out on many occasions. And most of those plans have been ruined at one point or another. It started when I was in Kindergarten.

At my kindergarten graduation, where all six-year-olds declare to their entire world what they want to be when they grow up, I said I was going to be a gymnastics teacher. (And then God ruined those plans by reminding me that gymnastics is for cute, tiny, graceful girls, not the ones who awkwardly tower over everyone else.)

And then in 5th grade, the age when everyone starts talking about puberty, I planned for my budding breasts to pop and flower like all my friends’ seemed to. (But then God ruined those plans when I started getting impatient and finally asked my high school sister when she got hers. She flashed me her “Little Women” and said, “Are you kidding me? I never did!”)

Fast forward a few more years to high school, during junior year when every adult and their cousin expects you to have an idea of “what you will do with the rest of your life after high school,” and “which college you will study at to attain the job you plan to get for the rest of your life after high school.” I mean, of course I knew. I was going straight to the mission field after graduation. (Until God ruined those plans when I went to the CRWRC recruiter and he said, “No, you can’t go straight into the mission field. You have to get a real job first. What do you think about becoming a teacher?”)

Two weirdos.

And then during senior year of high school, I knew which college I was going to attend. (Until I did a college visit and God made it clear that those plans were also ruined.)

During high school and college, I knew a couple of different times exactly who I was going to marry. (Until Justin Timberlake broke my heart and decided to marry Jessica Biel instead. And probably more importantly, until God introduced me to the hunk of a man I now call "Husband.")

We most definitely planned to wait at least two years of being married before we would start trying to have babies. (And just over two years after we said “I do,” we were holding beautiful baby Jocelyn in our arms. Insert: sentimental tears caused by pregnancy hormones. Also Insert: discussion on how the only safe sex indeed is no sex.)

I also thought we would live overseas longer. (And after three short years in Guatemala God made it clear that He was redirecting our desires and plans back to our homeland.)

And if you would have asked me ten years ago, “How do you think you will celebrate your 26th birthday?,” I probably wouldn't have said, “In my sweatpants with greasy hair and no career and a butt-naked child sitting on my lap fighting another case of extreme diaper rash.”

But you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. 

This is a legit Kodak moment. 
As in, I did not command her to give me kisses.
As in, my heart just melted a little bit.

With each of my ruined life plans, God always revealed something better.

(God: Breasts? You?! Please. Why not enjoy the luxury of being flat-chested for playing sports instead?)

(God: Straight to the mission field? You?! Please. Why not first go to this specific college, play four years of your favorite sport, and meet your Prince Charming who will love you just the way you are instead?)

(God: Gymnastics teacher? You?! Please. Why not try teaching a few Guatemalan children how to read and write instead?)

You get the picture.

I make life plans. God ruins them. And yet, like a cliché country song I sing, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

It’s not that I wasn’t sad or heartbroken when some of my life plans were “ruined.” It’s not that break-ups don’t hurt, or unreached goals aren't disappointing, or empty wombs aren't devastating, or the death of a loved one isn't the worst thing ever. 

It’s not that I wouldn’t have loved being a gymnastics teacher in Africa, married to Justin Timberlake, flaunting a nice set of “Dolly Partons.”

But I would still say I’m pretty grateful that the Lord has a way of “ruining” all of my genius plans.

Two extremely weird weirdos.

So young people – and by “young” I mean the world’s babies who think anyone over the age of 18 is old – continue to dream and make plans for your life. Then, give yourself permission to cry when some stuff doesn't work out like you hoped. And finally, hold tight and wait for those “aha!” moments when God reveals exactly what He was doing when He decided to "ruin" your plans and replace them with His better ones instead.

Old people – and by “old” I simply mean people who have more years of life experience than others – please continue to share stories of how your life plans were ruined. Please impart your wisdom of how God remained faithful to you through disappointment and brokenness and fear and impatience. Be examples of hope and encouragement as you pave the way for the world's babies.

God’s life plans are always greater, always better, and always more thought through than our own. He knows what He is doing, and if we are patient enough to wait and pray and sometimes cry along the way, we will someday know exactly what He was doing too.

God is faithful, and He promises His continued faithfulness.

His mercies are new every morning. Even when the night before didn't go exactly how we planned it to.

Grace and Peace,