Yesterday on her blog Elizabeth Esther wrote:
“Sometimes I think I deserve a well-planned life. One with backup plans and contingency plans and no interruptions.”
I can relate well to her. I might not deserve such a life, but I certainly wish for one. I want a world in which everything is neat and orderly, where there's a place for everything and everything is in its place—speaking not only of the physical objects that make up my life. Life, at least for me, rarely if ever seems to cooperate with my plans.
In the oft-cited verse Jeremiah 29:11 God says:
“I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.”
Encouraging words, but often they seem so far from the reality of daily life. We overlook or forget the context of these words—a letter written to the Jewish exiles living in Babylon. I doubt that most of them had planned or expected to find themselves living there. They didn't want to be there. But God tells them to settle in and prepare for an extended stay. He even tells them to seek the peace and prosperity of the city where they now live—the city of their conquerors. And in the midst of this, he tells them that he knows his plans for them. I wonder how they felt when they received this message.
Last year I saw my life turned on its head. Quite suddenly and unexpectedly I had to leave the place I had been living for some time. I had to leave the work I was in, just as it seemed it was finally making some headway. I had to say good-bye to dear friends. Some would say I should have been delighted because I had to return to the land of my birth. Sure, this had some potential positives, but I lost all that had formed my identity. Thankfully I didn't go off as a prisoner in a train of captives, but the pain may have only been marginally less. I began a downward spiral into despair and discouragement.
As I struggled through this time of transition and loss, I kept trying to cling to bits and pieces of my former life. I didn't want to have to die to it all. But God kept pushing me. He was relentless. I'd surrender another piece and hope that it was the final one, only to find him pressing me to take the next step. I wrote about this in December, describing it as a process of de-formation. In January I reached the lowest point, lying awake several nights in a row, far away from my family and any comfort. (I was traveling on business at the time.) I let go of the last pieces of my earlier existence that I was still clinging to.
Since returning from that trip I feel like I have stepped out of the darkness into the light of a new day. Having released everything, having died to all that I held dear, I found a new freedom. I was holding on to what I wanted to do—things that I believed God wanted me to do, because at one point in time he had given me those tasks—and this kept me from letting him lead me in a new direction. I'm reminded again of a line from one of my favorite Michael Card songs:
“We can't imagine the freedom we find from the things we leave behind.”
I still don't know clearly what the future holds. I'm exploring new avenues and new opportunities. Uncertainty seems to be the new normal for me. But I'm learning to live in faith, to walk day by day without backup and contingency plans, without feeling like I'm the one in control. Elizabeth Esther speaks of failing forward. I hear you, sister. Let's be bold in our failure and in the process find grace and the freedom to let God make us new.