On Paths and Plans
We all know that change happens, and that old seasons of life are continuously rolling over and new ones spring up to take their place.
I remember first truly noticing this when I transitioned through my college years. Every new school year was dramatically different from the previous. I had new friends, new classes, new schedules. It was always bittersweet, because new experiences loomed on the horizon, but I felt the absence of the familiar things and people which had filled me with such comfort and joy.
I remember moving across the country right after graduation, and reflecting on the fact that all of those changes and seasons of the past five years had molded me into exactly who I needed to be in the present moment: wide-eyed and ready to learn all over again, but brimming with rich experiences and wisdom that had been building up as the years went on.
I remember preparing for marriage, knowing that my life was about to radically change forever. I knew that I was going to be joined to another person permanently. I knew that we would move in together and refashion our entire lives when we did. I prayed for an openness and a readiness to welcome marriage with all of its joys and challenges, but I knew that it would be a hard and radical change, and it was.
I know now that preparing for having a baby is kind of like preparing for marriage, but in a newer and even more radical way, maybe. Marriage required a donation of myself, and a dying to myself, but I still retained so much of who I was as a person and still enjoyed so many freedoms. Motherhood, I know, will force me into an even deeper phase of self giving. I think it will be maybe more intense than marriage, more painful, but more revealing and more transformative than anything else I may undergo. As it is only a few days away for me, it feels like waiting around, knowing that an enormous life changing event looms days ahead of me, and that really all I can do is whisper into my own heart, I’m open.
Change never fails.
Some of the most transformative changes, though, are ones that you can in no way prepare for, and ones that you don’t see coming at all. I chose where to go to college, where to study abroad, where to move, and whom to marry. I prepared for all of those things, and they happened as I expected them to.
But the most radical changes, I think, are ones that crash into you from nowhere at all and radically change the way you live and who you are. When my dad died this summer, I found myself coming face to face with the reality of death and belief and re-imagining the way that the rest of my life would unfold. When I fell in love with the boy next door, it came at a time when I wasn’t interested in falling in love and it posed a great inconvenience, in a way, to my plans. Falling in love and realizing it was a change that forced me to make a decision, and plunge down a path full of unknowns.
Along with the suffering that unexpected change brings, I can look back and see how the changes that I didn’t see coming dug up an abundance of meaning in my soul. Who I am as a person is chiseled more clearly into the woman I am supposed to be when I embrace the changes I make no plans for. I love planning and predicting and being in control, but I think of how intensely bleak my life would be if my path had been laid out for me exactly how I had intended it.
Changes like dying and falling in love and bringing a new human into the world make me a better human than my calendar and lists would have ever made me.
Adventures are stuff made of preparation and due diligence, but how adventurous would they really be if we never opened our eyes and hearts to really plunging into the unknown?
As our lives twist and turn and go about their way, take a moment to remember that your journey doesn’t have to be one unplanned gallivanting twist after another, nor yet does it have to be a meticulously planned succession of days: but that God resides and works very well in a pleasant combination of them both.
“Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure”. He is master of plans and surprises alike.