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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

This Wasn't My Plan

Following a meeting I was a part of the other day with a few people I greatly respect, I engaged in a short conversation with one of the participants. He asked me what I was doing these days and I proceeded to tell him about the many hats I wear. In all seriousness, he then turned to me and said, "It’s really cool you’re getting to do what you want to do.”

You wouldn’t believe the number of people who have made similar comments to me during the last five years. I’m appreciative of their excitement for me, but what they don’t realize and I rarely have the heart to tell them is that this wasn’t my plan. I never, in all my wildest dreams, would’ve made these plans for my life. I had a totally different set of plans for nearly everything in my life.

My Dreams

I grew up having a totally different set of plans for my career. After getting through the “I want to be a professional athlete” phase of my life, I landed on being an architect which then transitioned into wanting to become a civil engineer. I wanted to get my degree from the University of Cincinnati which boasts a great engineering program so that I could design and then manage the construction of skyscrapers and bridges. I wouldn’t have argued if I would’ve been promoted to be a CEO of a large construction company at some point in my career.

I grew up having a totally different set of plans for my marriage. I dreamed of one day marrying a hot blonde chick who stayed at home to take care of the house, kids, and make dinner for me. I hate to admit this, but I basically dreamed that she would exist to take care of me and meet my every last need.

I grew up having a totally different set of plans for having kids. I dreamed of having two or three kids starting around the age of 27 or 28 and having them separated by two or three years.

I grew up having a totally different set of plans for my finances. I dreamed of being a millionaire by the time I turned 30, retiring early, and being able to save enough money that I could solely live off the interest from my investments. I wanted to have so much money that I could buy whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it.

I grew up having a totally different set of plans for my home. I dreamed of living in the country on a large tract of land where I could go completely off the grid. I envisioned using ground water as my water supply, raising/growing my own food, and using a combination of wind and solar energy for my electricity. And I dreamed of having a pond out back where I could catch some monster fish. I would’ve been perfectly content to not be anywhere in the vicinity of another neighbor.

I grew up having a totally different set of plans for church. I dreamed of being a part of a normal church congregation where we attended the Sunday morning church service once a week, paid our dues, and continued on with life.

For those of you who know what I’m up to these days, you know this isn’t the way my life has turned out. My current circumstances don’t look anything like I planned.

How Have My Dreams Turned Out?

It wasn’t my plan to attend college at Ohio Northern University.

It wasn’t my plan to quit my job at Turner Construction after eighteen months.

It wasn’t my plan to work at and then leave Marathon Petroleum.

It wasn’t my plan to work at a church for a tenth of the salary I was making at Marathon.

It wasn’t my plan to preach every Sunday for eight months at that church.

It wasn’t my plan to quit my church job a year later and go to seminary.

It wasn’t my plan to become a stay-at-home husband who took care of the house and made dinner for Amy.

It wasn’t my plan to not have a formal job for a couple years and therefore only a single income.

It wasn’t my plan to work as the interim ReStore Manager at Habitat for Humanity or be on the construction management team for their new building in Findlay.

It wasn’t my plan to start a website design business.

It wasn’t my plan to start blogging.

It wasn’t my plan to marry Amy, a beautiful brunette who enjoys her supervisory position at Marathon and would go absolutely stir crazy at home all day.

It wasn’t my plan to not have kids by this point.

It wasn’t my plan to not be able to buy whatever I want to buy when I want to buy it.

It wasn’t my plan to live in a neighborhood, shop at a grocery store, and purchase electricity.

It wasn’t my plan to be a missionary every day of my life.

None of these things were in the plans I had for my life. That’s not to say nothing has gone the way I hoped it would. After all, I did plan on getting a degree in civil engineering, working for a large construction company like Turner, getting married, having a pond out back, being a Christian, and having good health. But for a perfectionist like me, it’s only acceptable if everything goes according to plan.

A New Perspective

When my dreams started not working out the way I originally planned, I reasoned that one or two setbacks weren’t going to really hurt much. But then when more and more of them weren’t getting fulfilled and all hope of them being fulfilled was gone, I became pretty frustrated. I argued with God about it for quite a while because I felt like he just kept taking more and more and more from me. I was bitter for a while. More than anything, I was bitter with God that he wasn’t letting me run my life the way I wanted to run it.

But then my perspective began to shift. What would’ve happened if everything had gone according to my plans?

I wouldn’t have met Amy, the best life-long spouse anyone could ask for.

I wouldn’t have met all my awesome friends.

I wouldn’t have gotten to meet all the great people I’ve worked with.

I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to play hockey.

I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to participate with Jesus in his plans.

I wouldn’t have had so many of my worthless idols destroyed.

And most importantly, I wouldn’t have been able to cultivate a relationship with the God of the universe.

Knowing what I know now, I’m pretty sure that if things would’ve gone according to my plans, I would’ve been a miserable person. Yeah, I would’ve had everything I wanted, but I would’ve continued wanting more and more because I still wouldn’t have been completely satisfied. Actually, studies show that once we reach a certain point, the more people have, the more dissatisfied they are. More of the same stuff doesn’t satisfy us. Although more money, bigger houses, nicer cars, hotter wives, and better sex can temporarily satisfy us, none of those things can completely satisfy our longing souls. We need to continue going back to those wells over and over and over again to be filled.

But Jesus said that the “water” he offers will make it so that we’re never thirsty again.[1] He is the only one who can satisfy us completely. If my plans had worked out the way I dreamed they would, I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to experience the satisfaction and contentment I find every day in Jesus.

As bitter as I used to be about it, I’m not bitter anymore. How could I be? I gave up (at many times I came kicking and screaming) my plans in order to embrace Jesus’s set of plans which bring me such a greater level of satisfaction and contentment than my original plans ever could.

A Closing Story

In the same conversation with my highly-respected colleague, he made the comment that I seemed extremely calm and relaxed. He’s absolutely right; I am very calm and relaxed these days.

For those of you who’ve known me for a long time, you know that I used to be anything but calm and relaxed. I used to be pretty high-strung. I was regularly on edge and would get quite animated when I felt as though someone was trying to interrupt my plans.

But the contentment I’ve found in Jesus has caused me to be calm and relaxed. I’m not concerned anymore about trying control how my life turns out; that’s his problem now. I trust him to make better plans for my life than I ever could. And having had a chance to watch his plans be implemented instead of mine, I’d say he’s doing a fantastic job!

Now, I want to challenge you to think about your life. Think back to when you were younger. What big dreams did you have for your life? Have your dreams been fulfilled? If not, do you think your life has turned out better or worse than if your dreams would’ve been fulfilled? If it has turned out the way you planned, have you achieved your ultimate goal of being completely satisfied, or do you find you’re still longing for something more?

[1] See John 4:1-15.

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