We pray to see through heaven’s eyes, to know the outcome of our lives. But, Lord, we know, despite our cries, you choose to keep it a surprise.
I found this little prayer from my rhyming days while looking through some old poems over the weekend. Whenever I think about my future, I often find myself echoing the sentiment of this prayer.
As a planner, I want to know what’s coming. My closest friends could tell you that I hate surprises. I don’t like the way surprises make my heart stop for a second as I take in all the new information, simultaneously re-ordering my life based on the sudden change of events. I like to think of my life as a recipe that, if I just put in all the right ingredients, will come out of the oven perfectly browned around the edges.
The seemingly contrary thing about me is that I also hate being in control. For someone who likes to have their life planned out, I am terrified of being the one to plan it out. Like I said, I like to follow a recipe, but preferably one by Better Homes and Gardens and not one made up on the spot.
But—alas—life hasn’t given me a recipe. Life is a dash of cinnamon here, a pinch of nutmeg there—and I can only pray that it doesn’t turn out as badly as my Thanksgiving pie. Sometimes life is a surprise birthday party on repeat, only you don’t always get cake.
Oh, Lord, what joy to walk in faith, to never know the plans you’ve made…
This isn’t an easy prayer to pray. I wrote it at a time when all I really wanted was for God to give me a recipe. I still do. Last weekend I had time to think. It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to spend a day turning off creative or academic thinking and slip into dreaming and wonder. It was a day of much-needed rest, but I found myself getting sad. As a senior in college, I’ve been asked multiple times what I will be doing after I graduate. I’m not complaining. I ask people the same thing, and it is always out of genuine care. But it’s a tough question because I honestly don’t know the answer. I have a bowl of dry ingredients, and there’s no telling what it will become.
There have been times when I thought I knew. Before I had written the prayer above, I thought God had taken the effort to show me my future. I thought my life was a book written by a Romantic author. Everything was a sign, a foreshadowing, a metaphor. God answered prayers through the lines in a book, the words of a friend, a song on the radio, a change in the weather. Everything meant something. This is a dangerous way of looking at faith. Faith isn’t normally knowing things, and it has nothing to do with seeking the answers to our futures through signs. As Oswald Chambers would say, God doesn’t tell you what He’s going to do. He reveals to you who He is. Usually we’re going to be in the dark, but it’s at those times that God brings us closer to Himself.
I’m not trying to fit God into a formula. I think He works with everyone differently, and I do think that He speaks in wonderful and surprising ways. But what I am continually learning is to seek Him first, not the answers. He is the answer, and that is enough.
Sometimes I’m afraid that I will ruin my life by making a bad decision or taking a wrong turn, but the times when I know that I am following God are the times when I just know that He is with me. He does not audibly say “Go here” or “Stay away from there,” but He fills me so full with His Spirit that I know that my will is being molded by God’s will. When I’ve come close to making the wrong decision, He closes the door. When I have made wrong decisions, He helps me clean up the mess. We don’t have to be afraid of ruining our lives if we are genuinely following God. As long as we are obedient, we don’t have to be afraid.
I’m realizing that maybe it’s not about what comes out of the oven in the end. Maybe it’s really about the process of mixing together a beautiful life with the one who created it in the first place.
I think I’m really writing today to remind myself that I don’t have to know what I’m doing in 2016. My creator knows. It will be a surprise, but it will be a surprise from the one who knows me better than anyone else, the one who stands beside me now trying to get me to trust Him again. And I’m thinking that my younger self knows better than I do, because maybe it is walking in faith that brings us the greatest joy in life.
Leeland, one of my favorite Christian bands, has a song called “The Beginning and the End”. God is the beginning, and He is the end. He is the destination, but He is also the path. He is the purpose of this whole process, and it’s not about where I’m going; it’s about how I get there. Some days I pull out my old Leeland cd and roll down the windows, and I sing along to the chorus in grateful prayer:
“I place my life inside your hands. You hold for me a perfect plan, and you are the beginning and the end.”