God’s Plan or Mine
“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord,
Plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.”
Jeremiah 29: 11
My husband would say I saved his life. But it wasn’t me. God has a plan for us. Well actually for everyone. He’s worked hard to bring it to life and He isn’t done yet. As His plan unfolded for us it seemed as though fate or kismet or some kind of karma was in play but no, it was God at work in our life. He is relentless, like “The Hound of Heaven”! It wasn’t until I stopped and reflected on the unlikelihood of ever meeting someone to love me that I can see that God meant for the two of us to be together in His own good time. It was His plan for us.
I had left religious life in my early forties to move to a state I had never thought about, to a city I’d never heard of and volunteered for a job I didn’t want; there I met the man who would teach me about unconditional love. At that time in my life I felt like a “failure to thrive” infant, dying from lack of love. Faith alone and the grace of God made me cling to a belief in God’s love even when it gave me no comfort. It was purely an act of will. I believed in God’s love and prayed for His help in my unbelief.
After surmounting many obstacles we married, built our careers, bought a condo, made a lot of money and spent a lot of money but gave little thought to the future. We were faithful Sunday Catholics, volunteered at the Parish and were fairly generous to the needy but nothing to brag about. We worked to pay our bills and buy the next toy or go on the next trip. Like most women I loved shopping and he loved his toys. After seven years God gave us a wake up call. We were on the wrong path.
It was a beautiful winter night. I had worked late that night in February of 1993 when my husband called to tell me he wasn’t feeling too great and was going over to Urgent Care. He had just been working non-stop on a government project at work and we thought he was just tired. By the time I got home he had been rushed to the hospital with a heart attack and then shipped off to a cardiac hospital in Boston! I cried a lot. All alone I followed the ambulance and sobbed. (I probably shouldn’t have been driving but I had no one else to turn to.) I begged God to make him well. As the night wore on and I paced the hospital floor and slept on the vinyl couch in the waiting room; I prayed like I never had before. Suddenly there was a flurry in the hall and he was being wheeled back to the operating room. I was sure this was the end. I said to God, “I know you love him more than I do, if you want him to come home to You, then I accept your will; but You know I want you to give him back to me.” We had only been married seven years. God did return him to me. Our life changed from that time forward. Every day has been a gift from God. We don’t take life for granted anymore. All those clichés about living in the moment have a lot of truth to them because you never know what the next moment will bring.
Once he came home, we did everything we could to keep him heart healthy but the more important thing was that we still had each other. From then on the stuff of life wasn’t so important. When you face losing the most important thing in your life it really makes you pause and evaluate where you’ve been and where you really want to go. We don’t have a bucket list because we know we only have today. Nothing more is promised and I’m not sure we’ll even have the whole of today.
If we can’t read the signs of the times maybe we need to go back to school. As a nation we have suffered terrorist attacks, floods, wild fires, tornadoes, economic collapse and more. As I listen to the news the recurring report I hear is. “We’re just grateful to be alive. We have each other.” And I want to shout, “That’s true but you have God. It was God that spared you!” God has a plan for our future and that is why he has saved us from our personal tragedies or why we have to live through any tragedy. Tragedy teaches valuable lessons if we are willing to learn. Life's tragedies can also be life's blessings. I have learned that the hard stuff in life is a teaching moment. It's a God moment. He is trying to break into my distracted world and teach me what is really important. I believe that he is trying to say that there is more to life than this wonderful world we live in. I know it now or I should I say I’ve always known but repeatedly need to relearn that I have here no lasting dwelling place. I am a citizen of another world and that world is my true destiny. This is just boot camp. Then we joined Amway and hoped to supplement our income but again we spent more than we earned. While sitting with a thousand others trying to learn the ropes to getting richer and building grand earthly dreams; I found myself asking , “What's God's dream for us?” We'd lost focus again.
In the years since our near death experience we have learned to live with less because my husband can no longer work in the fast paced, high stress corporate world. He had to take low stress hourly jobs that paid little. I taught in a Catholic school and we all know that won’t make you rich. In the end we entered bankruptcy and lost our condo. As we drove away from the lawyers we looked at each other and said, “But we have each other and Jesus said not to worry about what you are to wear, or eat or drink, the Father knows you need all that.” We moved four times after losing that condo. Each time it was to a cheaper place. Then we lost our compass again and bought another house, lost money again until we realized that we were again putting everything into sustaining something material and not being available to family. When we sold that house we broke even and now live in a comfy in-law apartment. We unloaded years accumulated stuff in the move and are happier now with less. Simplify! Is our new motto.
We learned to love things less and family more. We've learned to trust the Lord and to surrender our plans for his. Although that's still a work in progress. We learned to enjoy prayer and adoration and finding pleasure in quiet time and long discussions and good books. We have learned that we can pay our bills and not go hungry or naked despite a minimal cash flow. Finally we learned that things and status don’t make us happy but loving others brings us great joy and peace.
We haven’t had a vacation since 1993 other than visiting family. We don't go out to eat or buy anything non-essential. I used to be a mall rat and now I don’t go there without a specific need. We are getting clever at finding free-fun and take delight in little things. I feel sorry for us. We are free, unencumbered and happy. I don’t know if this simplicity of life was God’s plan for us; or if there is still something more to come. Whatever the future holds is in God’s hands and I no longer feel compelled to worry about it. In God’s hands there is no need to worry.
“Do not worry about what you are to eat or what you are to where, your Father knows you need all these things.” Mt. 6: 25
MT6-25 is our license plate. Sometimes I look at it and have to admit that we've slipped a bit and have started complaining about what we don't have. That's when I feel the shame of not trusting the Lord, not surrendering it all. Then it's time to get back on track. Spend more on food for the soup kitchen, remake old clothes and shop at Goodwill before going to Amazon.
These past two years with COVID have taught us so much about clinging to the Lord and His word and not the sound bites from the media. If I thought the world was going somewhere in that proverbial hand basket, it is so much worse now. The evil around us is palpable, truth has become false and false has become true. If nothing else I'm learning to listen only to God's word and ignore the lies that surround me. There is only one truth and that is Jesus Christ. I pray daily to surrender it all into His hands for only He can change hearts. He will take care of everything as long as I trust and pray for wisdom and prudence.
In reading back over my words it seems that we have to keep learning the same lesson over and over. I'm alright with that because in that journey I've grown and we've grown. Backsliding isn't bad unless you don't get up, relearn the lesson and muddle on through a little older and a little wiser. Life is funny that way.
Jeremiah said God has a plan for our future full of hope but it won't be fulfilled all in this life. The hope is eternal union with Him and His family. I'mnot home yet.