I keep thinking about planning and goals: specifically, how can I differentiate between God’s promises to me and my day-to-day goal-setting?
When I read stories, especially from the Old Testament, it’s pretty clear that much of the time, it wasn’t the person picking a plan but God giving them a promise or a vision which either became their focus, or happened in ways they couldn’t have foreseen.
Take Noah for example. Did he have day-to-day goals when he built the ark? Get lumber for the main deck. Put together the stall for the giraffes. Find food for koalas.
He must have had a plan of some sort beyond the original design God gave him. And even though it took him many years, he stuck to it!
Or Joseph. God gave him a dream in which his father and mother and brothers bowed down to him. Now, I hope that didn’t become Joseph’s plan for his life. Must make family bow down to me by next December. How to do that? Step 1…
I doubt if his plan would have included being thrown in a pit by his own brother or sold into slavery or going to prison, yet all those things happened. And Joseph had to cope with the reality of his situation while wondering if God remembered him. The neat thing is that Joseph was flexible enough to accommodate even slavery and prison. He continued to trust God and act as though God was the one in control. Perhaps those earlier dreams sustained him. Perhaps he believed that God would find a way.In any case, he did what he could do, which was to obey God in all circumstances.
And then there’s Moses. God clearly told Moses that he was to be the one to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt to a new land. But Moses took a lot of convincing. And when he finally agreed, he knew nothing about plagues, or crossing the Red Sea, or the fact that the people would prove so recalcitrant that even God would want to kill them all.
Yet, aside from a few moments of frustration, Moses stayed firm even while his immediate goals disintegrated and he had to keep coming up with new ones.
But the story that impacts me the most is that of Abraham and Sarah. God told them that they would have many descendants, but because they were getting old, they decided to take matters into their own hands. And thus, Ishmael was born.
God still gave Abraham and Sarah his intended child, Isaac, but they now had to deal with the results of their inability to wait for God, which definitely complicated their lives.
I sympathize with Abraham and Sarah. Sometimes waiting for God to act is extremely difficult. You start thinking, Maybe he just gave me the idea, but he expects me to carry it out… It’s so easy to want to jump in and make it happen now!
So, the tricky thing, for me, is knowing when it’s up to me to act, and when I just need to wait for God to do what he has promised. After quite a few years of being in this situation, I’ve learned to keep going day-to-day, praying a lot, and doing what needs to be done while keeping the vision—the promises God has made to me—in the back of my mind.
One thing God told me some years ago was that everything I do is ultimately for young people. He’s also promised me that he will bring together all the things from the past – that nothing will be wasted. And he’s given me a picture of a huge body of believers of all ethnic types and ages and so forth working closely together. Sounds so cool! I hope it’s a promise. :)
I hope, like Joseph, to some day look around and say, “Hey, look what’s happened! What God told me he’d do has come true!”
For today, I can only do the things I can control. Last fall, I was positive God wanted me to put together a book of work by Canadian authors. So for the last four months, that’s been the top thing on my priority list. That book—Hot Apple Cider—is almost ready to go to the printer.
When it does, I’ll focus on what he’s given me next—writing a kind of spiritual memoir. Pieces, perhaps, of a bigger picture that he will one day put together to fulfill his promises to me.