Last summer, when we took a plane for the first time with our (second) baby, I packed three breast pumps. (Before you make fun, one of them actually broke on the trip!) When I say that I like to be prepared, it’s an understatement. Planning is a good thing, generally, but often my deep-down motivation for being prepared is to take control of all the things that I can anticipate going wrong. I have spent my life feeling happy to let other people control their own lives but wanting very much to be the one in control of my own. I am generally a compliant person, but when someone else tries to take control in a way that I deem inappropriate, something in me bristles and starts trying every which way to squirm out from under the pressure of the offender’s thumb. Sometimes this leads to healthy and necessary boundary setting.
Other times, it’s not such a good thing, especially when the “someone else” is God. My life up to this point has generally gone according to plan. I went to college, became a teacher, got married, had kids, and became a stay-at-home mom. These are all good things, and I have seen God’s leadership and provision as He took my desires and directed me where I know He wanted to take me. However, something began to happen when I got pregnant with my first child. That pregnancy and the year after her birth were very challenging for me for many reasons, but one of the main things God used that time to teach me was how very much NOT in control I was–over my body, my child, her health, my emotions, my schedule, my sleep, and on and on and on.
At first, this lack of control was very overwhelming and frightening to me. If my first lesson was that I was not in control, the next was that God was and is in control, and the lesson after that was that He is lovinglyin control. I knew those things were true and would have said so before I had children, but I needed to go through some life experiences before I could begin to understand what that meant in a practical sense.
I now find myself in a season when, for the first time in my life, I don’t know what’s next. I love being a stay-at-home mom to my two girls, but I am realizing that I need something else apart from being a mom. I really never made a plan for what would happen when my time at home with young children was over, other than a vague thought that I would go back to work and do… something.
The not-knowing has positioned me to see the Lord at work in a new way that I have never witnessed before. For the first time, I am learning a new dance with Him. In this dance, instead of forging ahead and praying for Him to go with me and show me the best choice out of some options I give to Him, I am learning to wait, which is nothing short of miraculous for a 6 (on the Enneagram) with an anxiety diagnosis. (Sidenote–if you haven’t heard about the Enneagram, check it out right now and head on over to the conference in Dallas if you’re able!) As He has completely thrown my world upside down and pushed me in a direction I never thought possibleor practical, this direction is so clearly from Him that I’m finding it easier to release responsibility to Him. “Ok, if you brought me here, You show me what to do next. This was Your idea. If you want me to write, I need some training, teaching, mentors, content, an outlet, time to practice, DIRECTION.” I have tried on my own for several years to deal with my anxiety, but when He took control, He blew me away. At the beginning of the year, I prayed for authentic community, a safe place to share struggles and encouragement and fellowship, but I couldn’t figure out the best way to make it happen. Four months later, I am shocked to find myself knee-deep in community with several different groups (more on that later). For years, I have prayed that He would make my time reading the Bible less of a discipline and more of a delight, and now suddenly, since He decided to act in this area, my time with Him has been transformed (more on that later, too).
You know what is surprising? Waiting can be exciting when you know you are waiting for something good and unexpected, much like waiting for the next chapter in a great book. I have seen how my life is when I make the plans, and it is nothing like the thrill of waiting on Someone who not only has plans that are good for me (Jeremiah 29:11), but plans that are much, much better, more interesting, more exciting, and more daring than my own. When I make plans, I look at what I can see, what is available to me, what others around me have tried, what resources I already have, and what strengths and weaknesses I perceive in myself. When God makes plans, He bases them on His desires (all good), abilities (infinite), and resources (unlimited). Suddenly my lack is no longer a limitation. He can use my weaknesses or choose to shore them up. Not only is He good and in control, but He has all the resources necessary to make His plan happen. I don’t, but He does, as stated in Psalm 50:10:
for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.
Though I’m getting better at giving up control and experiencing blessed freedom from always being overly prepared, I know I still have a tendency to imagine the worst thing that can happen in a given situation. However, I am learning to expect good things from our heavenly Father as He reveals Himself to be the author of my joy and the healer of my pain. My prayer for us today is that we would learn to unclench our fists and let go of the things we have held so tightly as He lovingly waits to take our burdens from us. I pray for you and for me that not only would we know Him, but that we would delight in knowing Him and in letting Him lead. If you have found yourself on this journey, let me know how it’s going! I would love to hear from you.