Our plans and God’s plans are often different.
For my mother, her plans were fulfilled in the children, sort of. When I was going to college, my mother and I talked one day. I was talking about how I was conflicted. I was making great grades in chemical engineering, but I wasn’t sure that is what I wanted to do. She ignored my concerns and started basking in the glow of her personal success in guiding my brother and sister.
My parents had started a turkey farm after the Korean War, about the time I was born. We moved from our in-town house to the farm when I was two. When my sister was a freshman in college and I was in second grade, we lost the farm. The Food and Drug Administration kept changing the regulations on potential water flow and my Dad ran out of money before he could rebuild the processing plant in a suitable location.
Their plans were destroyed, but my mother had grand plans for her two children. My mother did a lot of genealogical research. She had determined that various branches of the family tree had generation after generation of school teachers and ministers (either Presbyterian or Baptist). She had pushed my sister into education, but my sister, being the lifelong rebel, veered into speech therapy instead. My mother didn’t mind when she spent most of her career in the school system. That allowed my mother to claim her as a teacher.
My brother announced around his junior or senior year of college that he was going into the ministry. Although he only briefly had a full-time job as the preacher of a church, regardless of the precise name (preacher, pastor, minister of sacrament, etc.), he was an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church for his entire working life. Usually he had supply ministry in small churches that could not afford to pay him. That meant he had another job during the week, visiting the sick and shut-ins after work and never getting any rest. On two occasions he had two churches at the same time, neither able to pay him. His pay for preaching came from the Presbytery, but never enough to live on.
Yet, my mother was crowing that day about how she was two for two. Only problem was that she had three children.
I rarely had the courage to talk back to my mother. It always ended up with my Dad removing his belt when he got home. Now that I was in college, maybe he’d just give me a lecture instead. I asked shakily, “But you have three children… What of me?” After all, that is what started the conversation.
She snapped out of her reverie. She cleared her throat. “You’ll be a captain of industry,” she said, unconvincingly. There had never been any of those in the family. My Dad’s older brother was a successful engineer, but a captain of industry is another thing.
What I learned that day, although my unconditional love for my mother clouded the thought from surfacing. My mother had no plan for me. She had two plans. I wasn’t part of her thought process, but everything that she dictated to my older siblings is what her plan was for them. My sister was outside the box, but just barely. I did everything that my mother wanted me to do. I went into chemical engineering. Based on the rate of drop outs and changed majors, it was the hardest of the engineering majors to survive. There were only four of us that did it in four years out of fourteen that started as freshmen, but I did not choose to be anything. That was chosen by my mother.
I had a passion for writing. I had a passion for talking about Jesus, once I was saved while a senior in high school. It took over forty years to put those things together. In the meantime, I worked my mother’s plan while trying to glorify God in other ways. It is a full-time job just being a parent. My wife was not yet an enthusiastic, all-in Christian. My work had to include her wishes and desires. I learned that when you are listening to two children, your wife, your own hopes and plans, and working a plan set by your mother, there isn’t much time left to listen to God.
Today, my wife and I work a different plan, inspired by God. My usual routine is to go to the basement to do my morning computer stuff (e-mail, browsing, updating spreadsheets, etc.). While that is going on, I read my devotions and scripture. Then I concentrate on writing. During that period, my wife will call on the phone from upstairs. I answer, but I don’t have to answer. She has turned off the television or tuned it to a music channel. It is time for her devotions and prayer time. We spend time together, but we also spend time alone to talk to God and hear what He has to say.
This time spent with God is so fulfilling, I wonder what it would have been like if I had pursued it all along. I truly feel that God would bless me in many different ways that would be far beyond the money that I made chasing someone else’s dream, if it really was a dream at all. At the time, it seemed like an off-hand comment.
Are you working your plan or God’s plan? Spend time reading God’s Word, praying, and listening. Even if you can only spare a little while, you can grow from the experience. God may call you for something special. You have to be listening to hear the call.