One of my favorite movies of all time is "You've Got Mail." In this '90s romantic comedy, Meg Ryan plays the owner of a small children's bookshop. I have always felt such a strong connection to her character as she carried her love of books and storytelling with her everywhere she went, inspiring those she met both inside and outside of the shop.
It's a cute story, sure, but what always gets me is the moment when *spoiler alert* the main character, Kathleen Kelly, makes the decision to close her failing shop and part ways with her long-time boyfriend without any plans for her next steps towards a career or relationship.
I am an obsessive planner, and Kathleen's lack of structure for her future life stresses me out each and every time I watch the movie. One phrase in particular always gets me: "there is the dream of someone else." If you ask me, I would say this children's book enthusiast has spent far too much time in the pages of magical lands where unicorns and charming knights run wild. How can she take such a risk with her career and relationship by simply "dreaming" something better will come along? Where is her plan?!
Then came the realization, one I likely should have come to after my first ten times watching the movie, that Kathleen's fearlessness of the future is the same exact attitude I should carry with me throughout every season of life because I have assurance from God that every step I take is one step closer to His perfect plan for me. My plan may seem appropriate and attainable, but there is no guarantee it will unfold in the long run.
I was recently reminded of this truth when a devotional led me back to a well-loved and heavily marked passage of scripture in my Bible, Proverbs 16. Verse three, specifically, caused me to do a double-take on how I was moving forward in life.
"Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans."
- Proverbs 16:3
Growing up in church, I have heard these words on numerous occasions. This verse always seemed like a promise that as long as I followed God, He would give me whatever I wanted. If only I knew how inaccurate that interpretation was.
God is not promising me the granting of every wish I could ever make. Instead, He is saying He will do what is best for me if I keep my focus on Him. The more I focus on God, the clearer my appropriate plans will become. These plans may temporarily disappoint me or confuse me, but they are the right course set by the One who can see the entire picture, rather than the part of the picture I can see no further past.
So where does this leave me now? Are my current plans the right ones? The answer is simple: I do not know, but the One who "establishes [my] steps" does.
"In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps."
- Proverbs 16:9
In the meantime, as I wait for these beautiful plans to unfold, there is much to be done. It is time to stop dreaming of how God will use me in the future, and start doing what He needs me to do now.
As I have recently discovered, God does not always use you in the ways you originally anticipate. Although you may be active in a ministry, spending the majority of your time working for the Lord, some of the greatest opportunities to witness to others tend to surprise us in places outside the church (think of the grocery store, a classroom, the water fountain in the hallway outside your dorm room.) As long as your eyes are on accomplishing God's goals, nowhere is too out-of-the-way for you to serve.
"All a person's ways seem pure to them,
but motives are weighed by the Lord."
- Proverbs 16:2
Now, don't throw out your planners and calendars. The last thing anyone wants is you to miss that meeting you scheduled three months ago. Instead, quit stressing over the bigger picture and let God guide you through the unclear waters. Focus on the Lord and the rest will fall into place.