"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 29:11I don't know about you but I've had grand dreams for myself, for my entire life. Professional soccer player. Well-known photographer. Revered author. Yet here I sit having accomplished none of the above. I've struggled over my lifetime feeling less than mediocre expecting that I should have done more to be more. We've all been there, I think. In that place where you stare blankly into space wondering how you got where you are. Wondering what happened to all the things you decided long ago you would accomplish for yourself. That place is hard. Not because you don't love where you are or appreciate where you are or are grateful for where you are. But because it wasn't what you expected. You may even call it, the death of your expectations.
In the times where I struggle most it is often when I read scripture and see promises that God lays out that I feel haven't come to pass. I can't tell you how many times I've read the verse above with its hopeful promises to "prosper" me and "not to harm" me and to give me a "future." Only to think of all the hard times I've been through and things that have not felt very prosperous.
I've started a book called Plan B by Pete Wilson. When I began to read it, it was simply because I personally know the author and because I figured it would be good to prepare myself if my life happened to ever take a different turn.
The premise for the book is basically when your life doesn't turn out the way you thought it would, what then? How do you view God? What happens to your faith? And if you don't even believe in God, does it just further solidify your thoughts that there is no God?
Until chapter four, I thought the book was just a good read, something that every good Christian should know and possibly prepare for if they came in contact with someone who was just handed their "Plan B." But something really struck me in that chapter that connected a lot of dots in my life walk as a Christ follower.
When we decided to become missionaries, the honest truth was that it was my "Plan B." I felt ill-equipped, unworthy, terrified. And really, those are the good adjectives I would use. I also felt like it was the end of everything I had dreamed about. Getting a college degree and opening my own photography studio. Moving to an old farm, renovating it and raising horses. Our children growing up in the land of opportunity and endless possibilities. Although for some people becoming missionaries is their "Plan A," I felt like I was giving up so much.
The thing that really verbalized the changes I've seen in my heart is realizing that what may have felt like my "Plan B" back then was really just the beginning of God's "Plan A" for me. It was a hard road. Filled with doubt and disappointment and depression at times, but I can truly say that I am exactly where I would be today, and dreamed of back then, had I known what God had in store.
The difference between then and now is what Pete says in his book:
"Constant contact with the Creator is essential for transformation living."I wasn't as connected to God back then as I am now and as I have begun to look into the core of God's promises for me and what he lays out in his word I see the difference in context. The world's standards, and sometimes our own standards, for success and prosperity are often associated with financial security and freedom, or being relevant or accomplishing significance. But Jesus' promises for prosperity are measured in your close relationship with him, your service to others and becoming a humble heart.
When I think of what I used to consider the death of my dreams, I realize that my dreams were all things that would have brought myself glory. They would have lessened my dependence on God. They would have bound me to a world that feeds on egos and praises material accomplishment.
His dreams for me have now become mine. And my "Plan B" is forming into my "Plan A" because it revolves around a God I can trust with my life, my plans and my expectations. And Pete says it just right:
"When we've taken the time to understand God's character, faith comes easier. When we've experienced his faithfulness, it's easier to be brave. And the more time we spend in his company, the more ready we are to step forward when he says it's time."