“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 (NIV)
I believe that. Truly I do. But I have a confession to make.
*looks around to see who else is listening*
I am not a patient person. And I like getting my own way. Maybe too much.
Okay, if you know me, you know that means definitely way too much!
When God’s plans are different to mine, or when things take longer arriving than I hoped, I don’t always take it with the quiet and gentle acceptance I wish I could. I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve been known to throw tantrums with God like a two year old who dropped her ice cream cone in the sand.
People can plan what they want to do, but it is the Lord who guides their steps.
Proverbs 16:9 (ERV)
The problem is, to be human means to have hopes and dreams and expectations. No matter how much we trust in the Lord and seek His will in our lives, we can’t help it. We make plans. We hope God’s will lines up with ours.
Thankfully, it often works out that way. It’s easy to be grateful and give thanks to God when things go the way we hoped. But when what happens is different to what we planned? When what we get isn’t what we thought we signed up for?
For those Israelites God spoke to in Jeremiah 29, His plan was that they wait seventy more years in exile in Babylon. A long time, when false prophets were telling them they’d be home in two!
Some of you may have read the essay “Welcome to Holland”, by Emily Perl Kingsley. She compares special needs parenting to getting on a flight for a long-planned-for trip to Italy, and ending up in Holland instead. There’s nothing wrong with Holland, it’s just not Italy. We aren’t prepared for it. We don’t speak the language. Our guidebooks aren’t any help, because they’re for another country. It takes some getting used to how different it all is, and the experiences we have aren’t what we thought they’d be.
I certainly feel like I ended up in Holland sometimes.
A lot of the time.
I don’t know about special needs parenting, because all my pregnancies ended in miscarriage. I do know about being a special needs wife to my lovely husband, in ways I never expected when we first married. So many things have turned out nothing like I thought they would. It can be way too easy for me to think I somehow got on the wrong plane.
But the truth is, none of us knows the destination when we get on that plane, no matter where we think we’re going.
Getting on the plane labelled marriage, and making those vows, “For better for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health,” means going wherever the plane ends up. The same with the plane labelled pregnancy and parenthood, with all its built-in surprises and uncertainties.
No matter which plane we get on, the destination is always in God’s hands, not ours. His plan is always to prosper us, and give us a hope and a future. It just sometimes takes longer than we thought, and doesn’t look quite how we expected.
And that’s okay. Once we get used to being there, the surprise destination we never would have chosen can be even better than where we thought we were headed.
In my latest story, the heroine Catriona is a nurse with a special needs older brother. When one day at the Scottish seaside changes her life in unexpected ways, she discovers God’s plans for her are way better than her own!