By Jennifer Slattery, Crosswalk.com
Learning to Live in the Now
Learning to depend on God’s plan, not my own, is a constant struggle, and these last few months with the pandemic have made that painfully obvious.
I’ve been both completely aggravated and wildly liberated this spring and summer by the inability to plan—well, pretty much anything. And it’s teaching me a lot about what it means to be dependent on God and live in the moment.
By nature, I’m a planner, which is where the frustrating part comes in. I keep multiple calendars, including six different categories of calendars on my iPhone, a hard copy calendar on my desk and another on my fridge. This doesn’t include the daily to-do list by my side. This all probably sounds completely obnoxious to some of you, I’m sure, but I’m a busy woman and a working mom. For me, it’s how I do life.
Yet as a Christian I’m well aware my craving for a plan is all too often an exercise in futility. We humans mistakenly believe we are “in control” and that planning can put the chaos of life into a tidy little box. That is an illusion, for only God is in control. I know this intellectually. Still, my mind often all-too-conveniently forgets this, especially in times of stress when I crave a plan, order, structure, and routine.
It’s as if the plan, not God, reigns supreme. Ouch.
At the beginning of the year, I had a grasp of how 2020 would probably go—a hot mess of travel between work and a host of family commitments, not to mention the day-to-day juggle of business meetings, church activities, school events, youth theater, and everything else that sucks up all our time. When the pandemic hit and all those things were forcibly paused, I’ll admit I was a bit relieved. For the first time in what felt like eons, I had unexpected free time.
It was both freeing and frighteningly chaotic.
As a planner, this was good for me—really good. I soon trained my brain and my heart to let go of the nonessentials, to let each day dictate what was to come courtesy of God, not Jessica.
When life started getting more normalized and our state began to reopen, that familiar go-go-go began to rise up again inside of me. I found myself impatient again, wondering “exactly when” we’d do this or that.
How quickly I started to forget the most important lesson the pandemic taught me: let go of the steering wheel and let God be the driver.
God created us to lean on Him and be in a dependent relationship with Him. I struggle to remember this on a daily basis.
Yet Scripture assures me repeatedly that God is the one in control, not me.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus reminds us, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34 NIV).
And, as He says in Luke 9:23-24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”
Faith is about surrendering control, about understanding that control is an illusion. The only plan that matters is God’s plan.
And God sees how this year, this decade, this century will play out with a perspective only God has. I cannot possibly understand all that God’s plan entails, or even why. All I can do is my part to bring myself into alignment with His plan and work to serve Him and spread His holy truth. All I can do is walk on the path God has laid out for me, and bring myself back on that pathway if ever I walk astray.
I think the Bible’s King David might have felt the same way I feel. For much of his life prior to his rule, David—while God’s anointed—lived on the fringe, his guard up constantly because King Saul resented, feared and envied him. For a time, he was forced to live in the wilderness, taking refuge in caves and other hiding places. Maybe he, too, fancied himself a planner, wanted to be able to say, “Next year, we will go here and do this,” or, “Next week, we will achieve that.” Instead, he lived on the run. Perhaps he felt forgotten or irrelevant. Perhaps he struggled with giving over his plans to God.
Yet the psalms, thought largely to be written by David, are filled with verses that acknowledge God’s reign and almighty power, a power we can trust and shelter beneath. Take a look at these three just as an example:
Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
Psalm 28:7-8, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.”
And Psalm 62:6-8, “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”
Again and again, the message is clear: I can trust God. God is my refuge. God is in command.
Today is a good day, for today I remember the truth:
When it comes to a choice between my petty human pride about all I plan and wnat to do, and heeding God's plan, I choose the latter. God's way is the better way.
One day, maybe life will go back to the kind of existence I feel I can “manage” with multiple calendars, to-do lists, life goals and more. But right now, God is showing me a new challenge—what I call a “no plan” challenge.
And it’s good for my soul.
Meet Jessica Brodie:
Jessica is an award-winning journalist and author with thousands of articles to her name. She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, which has won 104 journalism awards during her tenure. She is author of More Like Jesus: A Devotional Journey (2018) and editor of Stories of Racial Awakening: Narratives on Changed Hearts and Lives of South Carolina United Methodists (2018), both from her newspaper’s the Advocate Press. She also writes fiction, represented by Bob Hostetler of The Steve Laube Agency, and her novel The Memory Garden won the 2018 Genesis contest for unpublished contemporary fiction from the American Christian Fiction Writers. A speaker and frequent contributor to Response magazine and the United Methodist News Service, among many other publications, she has a faith blog at JessicaBrodie.com.
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Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.
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