Sometimes plans do not work out. Sometimes you think you know exactly where a path is going. You climb up toward your destination, but upon cresting the hill you find an unexpected canyon, or a desert, or just that the road is much longer than you had imagined. Your career is cut short, your child is sick, you got the thing you wanted and it left you kind of lonely.
Three times in my life that I can think of, I walked confidently down a path with excitement and joy only to have the plan I thought I was working toward violently explode. I’m not talking like, I thought I would get Big Truck tacos but it was closed kind of thing. I’m talking life altering heart plans. It wasn’t because I made a moral or immoral decision. I hated that things weren’t how I thought they would be. I told God that had I known where the path was taking me I would have handled it all differently thankyouverymuch.
While those experiences in themselves were painful, I have realized that the true pain in my life came not with the plan itself convulsing and changing and dying. It came when, in those moments, with those failures, a lie crept into my heart. The lie went like this: “ He led you into pain. You have to take care of yourself.” And the worst choice I have made in my life, more than any really big sin (and I’ve done some big sinning) was listening to that small sick voice.
When I listen I begin trying to take care of myself. I seek my own security, and I fight hard to understand the way things worked so that I won’t make the same mistakes twice. Living this way is bondage for me. It keeps me navel gazing, it hurts my ability to be creative in encouraging others. “God doesn’t love me.” It is the old lie, and it is still strong and thieving.
When I shut it down, I stay alive. God knows me, he loves me, he has a bigger plan, he will turn it all around. He is on my side.
Today I know that God loves me. I know this because the bible tells me so, because several people know the worst things about me and they still believe it, and because I can sense it.
What we believe about the way God feels about us right now matters. God loves us. He thinks I am a hoot, as my grandmother would say. The world wants to tell us to find something else to give us our identity, our flesh wants to comfort us when that something else fails us, and the devil wants to accuse us of being stupid and sinful. God will vanquish these ultimately, and we will not have to fight anymore. But now we have to fight. God absolutely loves you, and he absolutely loves me. We have to believe this for each other, and though we do mourn with each other, we must remind each other where we are headed. There is work to be done. And we can’t do it until we know we are loved.
Postscript: Sometimes it works the opposite. We walk up a hill as cynics and pessimists waiting to get the tar beat out of us. God loves us so much that we might just find ourselves looking out over a sunset or running into a good friend or seeing an old man on a bicycle with streamers. God surprises us. But we see more when we’re open to it.