When I was in college, we used to have a small group Bible study with a few girls from an organization I was a part of, called Cru. Our discipler, Laura, was an awesome encourager and always had the right things to say when any of us was having a rough time. I remember one time, when we were all sitting around in her cozy living room, having a discussion about how hard it is sometimes to just let things go. And I don't know about you, but I am a visual learner. I have to be able to see something written down or acted out in order to remember it. And this was one of those moments that I distinctly remember.
As we were sitting there, Laura stretched out her arms in front of her, hands facing down and open wide, and she started wiggling her fingers. She said, "Sometimes, you just gotta let it go."
That was an awesome visual reminder for me of how important it is in life to sometimes just be willing to let go of the things that you can't control. You have to stretch your arms out and wiggle those things out and let it go.
My, how hard it is to remember that sometimes. If you've ever been around me for any period of time, surely it didn't take you long to discover that I am a planner. I like order and lists and predictability and black and white, and above all, I do not like changing plans. I get something in my head and I stick to it, for better or for worse. While I think that certainly helps me in certain convictions and aspirations in life, it can be quite detrimental in a lot of ways. I mean, I don't know if you're aware of this, but apparently life doesn't always go how we want it to.
Planning can sometimes be the biggest impediment to our letting God provide us a life of fullness and joy. And I am certainly guilty of this. I won't generalize because I don't know everyone's struggle, but I will say that for me, I have spent many years planning in my head the way I thought my life would look by age 23, 24, 25, 26...yet here I am at age *gasp* 28...and many of the things I envisioned being true of my life simply are not.
I don't want to confuse you - I am incredibly grateful for my life, for the growth I have experienced since college, for my endlessly loving and patient and grace-giving husband, for having a job that allows me to pay my bills and serve the community, and for many other blessings that God has given me. But does my life look like I thought it would? No. Does the Enemy use that fact to steer my heart from focusing on God's goodness sometimes? Absolutely.
You know who else felt that way? A lady named Sarai. Sarai was married to Abram and she just could not seem to bear him a son. She got so desperate that she finally told Abram that he should just sleep with her maidservant, Hagar, so that he could have a namesake. Sarai had an idea in her head of what she thought life was supposed to look like and rather than trusting in God to provide her an answer and a solution that was glorifying to Him, she decided to take matters into her own hands. And you know how it turned out? Hagar did get pregnant and Sarai resented her because of it. She hated Hagar because Hagar was able to do something she wasn't. Because Sarai was unwilling to let God provide her the right future, she created her own future and guess what? It didn't turn out as great as she thought it would.
One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 20:24, which says this: "A man's steps are directed by the Lord. How, then, can anyone understand his own way?"
It's so true, right? I mean, here's what I know: I woke up today, and I hope I wake up tomorrow, but I can't control that. So ultimately, it doesn't make sense for me to think that I can control the happenings of tomorrow either. Here's what else I know: Once I trusted God with my salvation, that meant that I was turning over my life here on Earth in order to gain the one in heaven. And that life is way sweeter than anything I could envision here.
I have this old calendar that has little quotes on each day and one said: "I'm so glad that life didn't always turn out the way I wanted it to." Oh man, is that true of my life. There are so many things that I thought I wanted when I was in college that, if I had gotten my way, would have prevented me from experiencing the joy and fullness of life that God has provided to me in those following years.
So what does that mean? It means that my focus should be changing. Rather than being focused on whether my life looks exactly how I thought it would, I should be focusing on how I am using each day to further the kingdom. Ultimately, furthering the kingdom means focusing on...wait for it...other people.
Yep, that's my purpose. Bringing other people closer to knowing how cool God really is. And if I am spending all my time doing that, guess what? I have a lot less time to worry about whether my life looks perfect here.
And here's how we battle that: by spending time reflecting on God's goodness, on his provision, on his promises. Reflect on the Ebenezers you've raised in the past. Review what the Word says about the mission you've been entrusted with. Reflect on all the times you didn't get your way and it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to you. Remember that there is someone who can actually see exactly how every single day of your life is going to play out, and while remembering that, focus on what He has told you about how much he loves you. Someone who loves you knows you and knows your heart's desires and wishes. But more importantly, someone who loves you knows that what's best for you isn't always exactly what you want.
To me, it's pretty cool to think about what God has in store. I mean, He knows me better than I know me, and He is always trying to figure out how to use my gifts, talents and personality traits to fulfill a very special part of His mission that's designed specifically for me and no one else. Getting to discover that is way more important than my life looking exactly how I envisioned it.