I am a planner. I am not sure if it is an innate quality or if it was something that was drilled into me by my family and school environment. I like to know what is coming. I like to envision what my life will be like or what I will do everyday. Our teachers ask us what we want to be when we grow up and that is basically asking a five-year-old for their 20-year plan. We all need goals, right?
I am constantly preparing my kids for what is next. We spend WEEKS talking about the doctor, practicing getting a shot, pretending our way through the exam before we actually step foot out the door to make the visit. They want to be prepared so that there are no surprises. I want them to be ready so that they don’t scream through the whole appointment. Isn’t it the Boy Scouts whose motto is “Be Prepared”—Also, Scar from the Lion King, but I digress.
Reuben and Eli went through this phase when pretty much anytime I told them to do anything, they would run away from me and scream, “Not Ready, Not Ready!!!”
Me: “OK boys, let's go downstairs and have breakfast!”
Boys: “NOT READY! NOT READY!”
Me: “Reuben, I need to change your diaper!”
Reuben: “NOT READY! NOT READY!”
Me: “Eli, let’s have a big bowl of ice cream!”
Eli: “NOT READY! NOT READY!”
(well, not this one, but you get the point…)
I know that I react like this sometimes, maybe not in a literal scream-and-run-away sort of way, but when God tells me to do something, my reaction can often be, “But God, I’m NOT READY for this!”
The summer before my junior year of college, I was getting ready to go to France to study abroad for the year. Tom and I had been dating for a year and a half and, you know, I kinda liked him. A LOT. In my heart, I had thought we were going to get married. Maybe he would come to France and propose to me, or we would make it through the year and he would propose as soon as I got back. But we were looking down the barrel of a completely new experience, living an ocean apart, in different cultures. That is bound to change things and I couldn’t be sure that we were going to be together on the other side of it. I did not want to be made a fool by planning for something that would not happen.
I was taking summer classes in Nashville and Tom was staying with his family in Mississippi. One night, we were talking on the phone and having a conversation about the coming year. Tom started talking about when I got back from France and how we would still be together. I think I said something to the effect of, “Well, I don’t know what is going to happen. It’s not like we are engaged or anything.”
Very early the next day, he hopped in his car and drove eight hours and sat me down at our favorite pizza place to tell me that he was not OK with this lose arrangement AND that he was going to propose to me before I left. It was very romantic but also very practical. Had he driven all that way and proposed, I’m not sure I would have said “yes” because it was not part of my plan. He had to come all that way to prepare me for the fact that he was going to ask me to marry him BEFORE I was ready. There wasn’t anything holding me back from saying yes to him, I loved him and I wanted to marry him, but the deviation from the way I thought things were going to be got confused with my readiness to be engaged.
Sometimes God calls us to do something that is not a part of our plan for our lives. But we have to remember that His timing is perfect, and our readiness is not really the point. Sometimes becoming ready requires a simple shift in our thinking, or we are lacking in understanding and we need time to learn but the thing that brings immediate readiness for what God calls us to is trusting Jesus. If we do this, we are always ready for what he is calling us to, no matter what doubt we may be feeling in our gut.
In James 4, it talks about the downfall of putting our trust in our own plans. I love how The Message puts it: “You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.”
I learned a long time ago that I don’t have a 5-year-plan and I’m ok if I never do. I accept that I don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. The only thing I can do is listen to Jesus and be willing to do what he calls me to do; and instead of running away, screaming, “Not ready!”, I can stand and say, “If it’s your will, and I’m still alive, I will do it.”