Monday, April 30, 2018

Not at All the Way We Planned It

How often over your life’s experience have you looked back and thought, “Well, that definitely didn’t go the way I expected!”? I suspect we’ve all encountered circumstances like that often. Sometimes this is good; sometimes it’s bad. 

An aspiring entrepreneur starts a business, full of enthusiasm, hope and dreams. A year later, she has to close it down due to too many expenses and too little revenue. Not at all what she expected. A couple goes house hunting and finds the house of their dreams, but someone comes in with a higher offer, or they can’t obtain the necessary financing. Great disappointment follows – until they find another house that fits both their “want” list and their budget. And the couple living next door becomes their best friends for many years. Again, not at all what they expected.

Yogi Berra said, "When you come to a fork in the road,
take it." Better yet, ask God which was to go.
This is why one of my favorite Bible verses in Proverbs 16:9, which declares, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Another verse says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

So many times over my life I’ve seen – often only with the 20:20 vision of hindsight – how God would interrupt and overrule my plans so He could reveal a own plan and purpose I couldn’t have envisioned. This has been especially true over the course of my career.

As I was finishing up my journalism degree in college, I was anticipating getting a job with a daily newspaper. (That was in the pre-Internet days when newspapers were still a big deal.) Instead, the opportunity that presented itself was to become editor of a small, weekly community newspaper. Not the position I’d hoped for, but it turned out to be far better than I could have imagined. 

It required me to serve not only as editor, but also local government and school board reporter, features writer, photographer, sports writer, columnist and editorial writer. I even did police reports, wedding announcements and obits. The depth and breadth of experience I gained during more than six years at that newspaper laid the foundation for 40 subsequent years of writing and editing. Not only that, but in that suburban Columbus, Ohio town I met the woman who has been my wife for nearly 44 years!

I did interrupt my tenure at that little newspaper to work for several months at a daily newspaper in suburban Philadelphia. However, as it turned out, God took me there only for much-needed, intense training before I returned to community newspapers. Overall, my 10 years on those papers paved the way for becoming a magazine writer and editor, as well as many other writing opportunities.

As the verse above states, I had planned my course, but the Lord determined my steps – and they often didn’t go at all as I had expected. As a result, long ago I adopted a similar passage, Proverbs 3:5-6, as my “life verse”: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

This truth can manifest itself in every area of life, if only we’re willing to recognize it. A young woman dreams of becoming a mom, but for years she and her husband are unsuccessful at becoming pregnant. Instead, they elect to adopt two little boys, years apart, and now they can’t imagine their lives without either one. Because of her infertility, God blesses them with two beautiful sons – and two unwanted babies find a wonderful, loving home.

You can probably think of similar examples from your own life, times when circumstances took you down paths you never anticipated, but in retrospect realized that although things didn’t go as planned, it turned out they went much better than you could have hoped. 

As Jeremiah 10:23 tells us, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.” Comparing what I had in mind with what God actually did, most of the time I’ve been very glad that’s true. 

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