Planning

Here’s something I need to hear, so I’m going to tell you, too:  Sometimes God has a different plan. 

My mother sometimes laments how her days often do not turn out the way she expected.  “I can have my whole day planned,” she’ll say, “and it can turn out completely different.  We’re just not in control.  We may think we are, but we’re not.”  Sometimes, I need that reminder.

With the exception of work-related items that demand it, I’m not much of a planner.  I’m one of those people that pulls out a map more to see where I’ve been than to see where I’m going.  I’d much rather just go and see what happens.  Or better yet, go with someone else who plans it all for me.  So God and I – we’re often on the same page in this regard.  I tend to go along the path He lays in the knowledge that He’s got it all planned, and with the expectation that He’ll fill me in on the critical details when I have the need to know.  But every once in a while, even I just can’t help but get a few of my own ideas.

Take, for example, this year.  I had big plans for life after graduating with my PhD.  I was already secure in a job I enjoyed, so there was no need for a hectic move to a new location, no need to work extra long hours trying to learn a new job, adjust to a new culture…after two years of a full-time job and full-time school, I was looking forward to some much anticipated down time.  As graduation passed and the new year began, I was flooded with so many exciting possibilities of how to fill my new free time that for the first time ever I actually wrote down new year’s resolutions – two full notebook pages of all the things running through my head that I wanted to do.  Now, I was going to have time!  Time to tackle the many back-burnered writing projects I wanted to try, time to travel, time to sleep, time to read something besides peer-reviewed journal articles, time to step back and just listen…

I listed.  I prioritized.  I jumped in and started.  Then just as I was beginning to make progress, my boss left.  And my year off came to a screeching halt.  In addition to my job, I was now covering my boss’ job and scrambling to keep our department afloat as we entered into our traditional busy season.  Two writing projects fell off a cliff, another had me sweating bullets at the intermittent time I could devote.  More than one weekend evaporated at the office and more than one night’s sleep was plagued with an amorphous sense of pressure.  As the months flew by, I saw everything I had been so excited to accomplish this year disappear.  Instead, I was embroiled in exhaustion, disappointment, frustration, confusion.  I still liked my job, and was learning a whole lot of new things, but the path I was running (and ‘running’ is the correct verb) was not at all what I had planned.  Certainly not what I had envisioned for my “year off.”  What went wrong??

Sometimes even our best-laid plans get diverted.  Sometimes God has something else in mind.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” He says, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).  The path we are being diverted to may not be what we planned, but that does not automatically make it wrong.  Is it disappointing?  Yes.  Frustrating?  Most definitely.  Wrong?  Maybe not.

I am not going to accomplish everything I had planned this year – not even close.  But, maybe that is okay.  Maybe that is even supposed to be the point.  Because ultimately it does not matter how much of my plan is accomplished; it matters how much of God’s plan is accomplished.  God is still in control.  And sometimes He has a different plan. 

 Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).

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