Things never unfold like you think they will.
I feel like this has been the theme of my life. I don’t know why I just can’t get this. When will this reality actually sink in?
I’m about 2 and a half weeks into summer, and it has been everything I’ve planned, but nothing like I thought it would be.
Does that make sense?
I had my checklists and high hopes of what I wanted to get done this summer. Little by little, I’ve been planning, arranging, filling in my calendar with the ‘have-to’s’ and the ‘want-to’s’ – all of my activities to get organized, learn to cook, explore Long Island, make the most of this short summer.
Tried a few new recipes: check.
Shopped at the outlets: check.
Spent the day in Southampton, East Hampton, and Greenport: check.
Cleaned the bathroom and semi-straightened the office: check.
Started work on my curriculum project: check.
Time with friends and family: check.
Not bad for 2 and a half weeks.
Everything I’ve planned, but nothing like I thought it would be.
So, what did I think it would be?
Well, I guess I thought it would deliver a little more. A sense of satisfaction. Serenity. Contentment.
“It’s summer! I’m free! This is what I’ve been waiting for all year!”
But instead, I found myself, in the middle of all of this, in a funk.
Now, maybe, it’s just my typical clumsy-adjustment-to-a-new-routine funk. Or maybe it’s my I’m-pumped-up-on-hormones funk. Or maybe it’s my task-driven-perfectionist-need-to-be-productive funk. Or maybe it’s my tired-of-this-infertility-plague funk.
Or maybe it’s none of those things.
I started to think and pray about this: “God, what is wrong with me? Where is this coming from? I can’t seem to push out of this.”
Clear as day, I heard this in my heart: “Katie, you expect too much…”
Um, that didn’t sit so well with me. What did that even mean?
But as I stopped protesting and quieted down long enough for God to finish His sentence, He began to clarify what He meant. As much as I know the truth, I keep looking for things and experiences and people and plans to give me what they just cannot: Perfect joy. Perfect peace. Perfect contentment.
I keep expecting these things to give my heart what it needs. And they can’t. As good as they are, they can’t.
A perfect marriage (which doesn’t exist): Can’t.
A baby (a delicious as he/she will be): Can’t
Adventure and leisure and exploration: Can’t
Good times with friends and family: Can’t
These are all good things, but as far as being sources of joy and satisfaction and peace – they can’t give that because they aren’t the source. They are temporary. They are flawed. They are impermanent. They will always come up short.
After this dialogue between me and God, two memories popped up in my mind. The first one was when I was in my late 20s sometime. I don’t remember much of the details, but I remember when this verse came to life to me: “In Your Presence is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11). In other words, only by being with Him can we be perfectly happy. I don’t really remember what I was going through at the time – likely a bad break-up or some general discontentment with where my life was – but that verse set me free from looking for anything else but God to bring joy to me.
The second memory that came to me was when I drove the California coast by myself. I was probably about 32 years old, and it was after God had been doing some incredible things in my relationship with Him. I look back, and that season of my life was probably the most relaxed, content, happy, and peaceful I’ve ever had. Even to this day.
During that trip, I had 10 days to drive from San Diego to San Francisco. I didn’t have a real itinerary; I just had some friends in various places along the way that I was hoping to get together with, and that was it. I didn’t make a list of what to see or places to go. I had zero expectations. Whatever I did and got to see would be fine; it was more than I had ever seen or done in California anyway – so it would all be a plus, no matter how it ended up.
Well, that trip ended up being one of the best trips I have ever taken. So relaxing. So filled with wonder. So peaceful. What I got to see and do was better than anything I could have planned. And it taught me a huge lesson: sometimes it is good not to have an exhaustive plan. Not to have big expectations. Sometimes plans and expectations rob you of what actually unfolds – which is fantastic. But when that is held up against a plan or expectation, we miss out on the greatness of what we have actually just experienced and we aren’t grateful for it.
So, with these memories, I felt like God was saying to me, “Stop trying to micro-manage your summer. Make your lists and plans, but don’t be so attached to them. They won’t give you what you are looking for, anyway. Only I can do that. Make ME your plan this summer, and let Me handle the rest. You might be pleasantly surprised with what I come up with.”
And of course, it comes down to what it always comes down to with me: Giving up (the illusion of) control. Letting go. Trusting.
All my strong points, right?
It’s okay if I don’t cross off everything on my list this summer. It’s okay if I don’t get to see every nook on Long Island. It’s okay if my office isn’t perfectly organized by the time school starts in September. It’s okay if I don’t nail down this blog-thing by the end of August.
I need to stop expecting summer (and people and experiences and plans) to deliver what they can’t. They are limited and finite and imperfect. They can only deliver so much.
Only God can deliver what my heart really needs: Peace. Joy. Safety. Security. Satisfaction. Contentment. And it’s not that He gives those things. Those things are found only IN Him and WITH Him. “By His side are pleasures forever.” He cannot give them apart from Himself and His presence because they don’t exist anywhere else.
It’s still early enough for me to re-group. To re-adjust. To rework the plan.
The new plan is this:
1. Let God make the plan.
[Photo Credit: Wikimedia]