I don’t know about you but I’ve been kinda disappointed at various times of my life. Whether it’s just circumstances didn’t work out the way I wanted them to, or people let me down, or I forgot to buy that lottery ticket and it was totally the numbers I would have chosen, I can look back and see a few places when I just couldn’t see the forest for the trees and got lost along the way in despair.
What I’ve learned from looking back over life is this: people suck. Yep that’s the big life lesson. People let you down. They stop doing what they need to or they start doing what you wish they wouldn’t. Or people in their selfishness and arrogance make choices that affect you and change the course of your life in ways that seem irreparable and through the exhaustion of what feels like no fault of your own, you paddle upstream trying to find some haven and rest in the midst of the chaos of your life.
And also I’ve learned I am people. Dumb choices, failures at being a human, selfish ambitions or just complete lack of give-a-crapness were all contributors to how much I disappointed others and myself. I took the wrong job or I took the right job and blew it. I had my heart set on certain outcomes in life and found that my life wasn’t matching up when I wanted it to. I dated the wrong guy for too long thinking it will get better. I dated the right guy and panicked and ran away screaming. Although in my defense, I would argue that I hadn’t met the right guy until June 2012.
Maybe that, in the end, is the point. We look in the rear view mirror and we see the turns we thought we missed and the roads not taken. But then it should become all the clearer. We didn’t get what we wanted at the time, but maybe it was to prepare us for what we needed instead.
There’s a great song by Laura Story called Blessings. I have never attempted to sing this live because I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t make it through without weeping.
What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?
What if trials of this life,
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise?
I look back over my life, and I look back over the lives of people I know and I can’t help but see Providence working out the path and closing off the wrong exits – or letting us go to the “wrong” exits so that we learn something we wouldn’t have learned any other way. I see the line, not straight, but sure, directing me to where I am today, right now, sitting here typing on my couch with my newborn daughter sleeping next to me, waiting for my beloved husband to come home to us. I think about the huge disappointments of Rob’s life – losing his dad way too soon, struggling to find his calling, finding himself in a far different place than he ever thought he would be in 2010, and then following God’s leading which “just happened” to drop him off at my church one day in 2012.
And now we find ourselves waiting again for God’s direction, see which turn signal He turns on, and accepting the road blocks He puts up as we go. It’s hard to not be disappointed sometimes when you see a light up ahead and you think it’s green but as you get closer it turns yellow. and if we were in New York, we’d know that the next 3 cars are allowed to go through a yellow light. haha.
But we’re not in New York, and we use caution because we know racing ahead isn’t the way to drive through life. We’ve done that before and we’ve seen other people in our lives try to push God’s agenda, or at least what they would like to think is God’s but really turns out to be their own. It can be devastating and the house on shifting sand comes crumbling down. So we wait. And we put our hope in God alone and in His timing. It isn’t easy, but it reminds me that His mercy is not just in not giving us what we deserve, but in keeping us from what we think we want which isn’t His best, even when we are trying to make the case in our heads that it really is best and why can’t God see that? As if.
We Christians like to quote Jeremiah 29:11 – it’s a good one and appears on a lot of needlework and plaques. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” The context is a great story. The people of Israel feel restless, finding themselves, once again, in exile. They are in Babylon and don’t want to be. They want to be home and settled into the land God promised them. They hate transition. They hate uncertainty. But God tells them to chill. More or less. He tells them to settle in to the place they find themselves, like a “bloom where you’re planted” needlework pillow. He says have families, go about your normal lives, contribute your best to the city and the culture around you, dig in – quite literally, He tells them to be gardeners – and make the most of the time you are here. and when it was time, He sent them home.
I like the verse in the section before the plaque we all have quote. It says, “Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream.” For me and Rob, I pray that God will give us the right dream. It is easy enough to give in to other people’s dreams and visions. It’s easy to give in to dreams that we think we want for ourselves, for our family, for our future. It’s easy to get sucked in to the American dream, to think we have to have it all, and that success looks a certain way and is achieved by specific methods. And conversely, that failure is defined in terms of financial outcomes or how many people attend your church or how long it takes for your church plant to particularize. (That’s Presbyterian speak for the process of – well I can’t tell you or I’d have to kill you.)
Point is that I don’t want a dream that isn’t mine, tailored to me, fashioned by God. I don’t want to set my heart on what He isn’t giving me. I want my heart set on His heart. I want to dream what He dreams for me, for Rob, for our kids, for our future. I want Him to show up – I expect Him to show up – and cast a vision we could not have come up with ourselves and could not execute ourselves. I have never in my life believed more in God’s Providence and His goodness, and seeing how His hand has brought me to this place and how He dared me to dream of my life and the future Rob and I have to look forward to, I know we will not be disappointed wherever He leads. We will follow.
Here’s the Blessings song. Grab a tissue…