For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
- Jeremiah 29:11
My young granddaughter cant decide whether she wants to be a singer when she grows up, or work with dolphins at Sea World. Today, that is. Last week and the week before that she had other plans. So like a child.
When I was her age I chose the usual female options - nurse or teacher - even though in my generation few women worked outside the home. I also toyed with pursuing a music career, which, in a church and music-centered home like mine, meant singing or playing the piano in church.
But sometime during my high-school years, my plans changed. In those days, if you were active in a church youth group, the most frequently asked question was not what did we want to be now that we were nearly grown-up, but what was Gods will for our lives.
By no means was this an idle switch in emphasis. As anyone observing such a discussion could tell, ours was a serious, if not agonizing, pursuit. No one wanted to do anything outside that powerfully important will of God, even if we had just as many questions about the meaning of the term as we did about recognizing what that activity or career might be if we found it.
My peers and I would endure more agony, and a longer leap from youth to adulthood than we imagined, before we understood what it meant to be in Gods will. To some, it meant, Whatever I really dont want to do; to others, anything short of austerity, self-denial, or a life term as a missionary to Africa couldnt possibly be Gods will.
Eventually maturity and new insights came, and we emerging adults developed a better understanding about our not-so-tyrannical God. Turning those Sunday school memory verses into reality was a start. Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (I Peter 5:7); and Trust in the Lord delight also in Him, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:3-4), were some of my favorites. It seemed to me that caring and desires didnt belong in the same category as agony. Personal sacrifice might be part of the picture, but things that delighted us were, too.
A couple of recent events have resurrected these bits of nostalgia. First, this year during vacation Bible school, our children learned a song that my grandchildren still sing every time we are together: God had a plan and Im living in the middle of it (repeat 20 times) living in the middle of Gods creation (repeat 20 times); God made the world. What a song to feed an optimistic childs mind. No agony there.
The second experience was a conversation I had with Commissioner Frank Spears the night he lost his bid for re-election. Knowing how much he wanted to win and serve again, I tried to express my sympathy.
Its OK, he said. God has a plan for my life, and Ill just follow it.
As my little ones will soon learn, even the plans we thought were Gods will for us, or that delighted us for so long, may slip from our lives. Marriages fail, jobs terminate or never become ours, and more candidates lose elections than win them. Life isnt all pleasure and delight.
But somewhere, on another level of maturity perhaps, we learn God may have more than one plan for our lives. The details, that is. Its always His plan to care for us and direct our paths (Proverbs 3:6), but He can do that whether we drive a truck, hold public office, or work in a dolphin tank at Sea World. For our part its how we live, not where; our work ethic, not our title; and more often than not (repeat 20 times) something we greatly desire to do.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@ aol.com)
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