Saturday, September 5, 2009

Know the plans

In the face of disappointment, some either offer comfort or find comfort in the statement: “God has a plan for you.”

I wonder: Why?

Please note this is a big ‘why.’ A ‘why’ so big that it’s chock-full of other ‘whys’:

• Why would God divinely alter what I assume has been a previously endorsed plan? (Or, if a plan is being altered, does that mean a person has actually been on the wrong plan?)
• Why would God alter a plan without prior notice? (Is God really that spontaneous?)
• Why, if there is some form of prior notice, is it so easily missed? (Certainly God can grab a person’s attention in good and clear ways.)
• Why would God use disappointment as a way to move a child created in God's image toward a new plan? (Doesn’t that make God bad even if the plan is supposedly better?)
• Why can’t God just go with the plan currently in place and simply improve it if necessary? (After all, God IS God.)
• Why does someone else seem to know God’s plan for another person’s life while the one God’s working on seems rather oblivious? (Again, can’t God get someone’s attention whenever and wherever God wants?)

If I had to focus on only one of the whys, it would be this one: Why do we need assurance that God has a specific plan for our lives anyway?

When Mark and I married in May 1986, we chose Jeremiah 29:11 as the central verse for our marriage ceremony. It’s probably the most popular “plan” verse of the Bible: “‘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.’” (NIV)

Idealistic, young lovers with a lifetime of only good things in store, we vowed to share who we were with each other, facing any circumstance life threw our way. We clung to this promise, confident nothing could sidetrack the wonderful plan God had for us individually or as a couple. Believing in a providential plan provided reassurance that we could prevail regardless of what might come.

Then, five years into our marriage “what might” did come. And you know what? We were right about not being sidetracked or overtaken; we continued to prosper, although probably not in the way we understood the hope of prosperity then.

Truthfully, I can’t attest to what we understood then. Who were we in our 20s anyway? We certainly lacked the capacity to look into our future as we know it today. And if we could have seen or even gotten a glimpse of our future, it may have altered how we followed “the plan.” For whoever we were then, we had a much smaller concept of God. We believed there was only one correct plan, and if we missed our opportunity to stay on course, well, we didn’t want to find out what could go wrong.

God was in charge. We just needed to follow.

But you know what? In the process of trying not to misstep, we discovered a prosperity promise even more provocative regarding God’s capacity for hope and a future: The God of the universe is so expansive, it’s impossible to get lost. No matter which direction we step, God is already there. What a relief! That kind of providence is providential, indeed.

Moreover, God’s love is expansive, too, encompassing every child created in God’s image. This all-encompassing love renders God incapable of inflicting pain on those created to reflect the very image of God. This expansive, providential love is personified grace, or God in action.

After 25 years together (one courting, one engaged and 23 married), Mark and I now allow God to surprise us with displays of expansive grace – grace so huge we are able to see God in the midst of some pretty dire circumstances. It’s a grace that begs this question: “Why shy away from prosperity that can intangibly sustain even during times of want?”

Not capable of comprehending the anxiety and hopelessness of exile, we might find it easy to ignore the powerful context of Jeremiah’s words. He was writing to people banished to Babylon, encouraging them to settle down. “Go ahead and do things that might give you roots,” he told them, “Even if you are in a land that’s foreign to you, I’m right here.”

It’s truly a grow-where-you’re-planted message. So why not get comfortable with a more contemporary interpretation of this popular text: “Wherever you go, there you are. And, guess what? God is there too.”

Really. Go ahead. Enjoy life as it happens and wherever it might lead you, for God “knows the plans” not just “the plan.” God is one step ahead of you no matter the direction you’re headed.

Do you have a better plan?


Trudie Goff said...

This post just resonated with me.
Thank you. I too, had many plans for the life I believed God wanted for our family.

We had many years of infertility issues. And then our daughters came after five years of trying, expensive procedures, and many days of heartache. The miracle was that we let go of what the outcome would actually be. And I really believed that no matter what the outcome would be: God would help us to go forward and still have a good life with or without children. The girls came and are two years and four days apart. WE had ended the fertility treatments and months and months later, came Emily, and then once again, when Emily was 15 months old, I became pregnant again.

Though this was a truly painful time for Rick and I as we began our marriage, our family went through another trial by fire experience several years after the girls were born. I was rushed to the emergency room on the eve of my 39th birthday with a platelet count of 2000. An emergency blood tranfusion was done. The entire night was spent keeping me alive.

The morning brought the news that I had lupus, and even worse, I would undergo a bilateral bone marrow scan to determine if I had lymphoma. My children were one and three and my mortality was in serious question.

The slides from the scan were sent to the Mayo Clinic for final confirmation of the dissease I may have.

Within a week or so, it was confirmed that I had a rare disease called Multicentric Castleman's disease (mixed cell variant) Approximately 80 people in the world have this.

Though not a cancer, it behaves like one and the course of the disease most likely goes the route of stage four non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Most people never live very long with the form of disease I have. It's a complex disease, placed in the cancer realm, so I still am under the watchful eye of an oncologist.

But really, my gratitude goes out to the stellar care I received for many years from the Mayo Clinic. It was outstanding and my chief attending physician, Dr. Luis Porrata, enabled me to live and now thrive.

The cause? An overproduction of interleukin in my system. And a poor genetic blueprint, as my father died of non Hodgkins lymphoma this past

It is seven years later and I have undergone chemotherapy, alpha interferon treatments, predisone therapy, and am happy to say that I am doing very well. I no longer need chemo or any large interventions. I take 7 mg of prednisone, and have made all of my doctors wean me down to the lowest doses of all meds. I am a yoga gal, and I walk several miles a night.

It does not even seem real that this ever even happened...there was so unspeakable sadness for Rick and the girls, questions that popped up as my body weakened failed at times, new meds did not work, etc...

This is the very condensed form of the story. There were some many moments that changed the face of all of our lives.

But the one thing I want to say is that in the five years I truly struggled, God helped us all to grow. It was horrible sometimes. It was gutwrenching, but God was in the midst.

I am teaching again...really, it's my heartfelt calling. And to have gone back with my white cell count at times very unstable, was miracle in and of itself. I still struggle with my lupus. I am photosensitive, so navigating the ghastly hot and humid summers of VA are hard. The Castleman's disease is still in my body, but is in a form of remission.

I have written a long story about this event called "The Birth Day" which I would like to get published at some point to offer hope to someone who may be struggling.

My own faithlife went from wanting to be in control to letting go...and doing a freefall into grace...into God's loving arms.
It was not easy. But to let go finally gave a peace that I had never experienced in some forty some years of living. Peace today.

Joy said...


What a beautiful, awe-filled story. I cannot imagine the range of feelings that you and your entire family have experienced. I hope you do have an opportunity to share it with others who could benefit someday. We live such a paradoxical existence don't we? My desire is to help put that phenomenon in words so others can have as much understanding as possible without the need to face dire circumstances to get it. Yet I wonder if the most helpful form of understanding can only come through trial.

Thanks for sharing! So glad we've connected!

Blessings to you!