"We can't direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails"
Thomas S. Monson
Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before...."
'Just across the river' in London's congested roadways might as well be across the country some days, this day it was living up to it's infamy, 2 hours for 12 miles! Groaning, I texted my friend the bad news, "Have you tried using Waze?" she asked, I'd never heard of it but quickly downloaded the app. I wasn't holding out much hope as I entered the address, but to my utter shock and delight it reduced the drive down to 50 minutes! How was this possible?! Setting off, I assumed it would take me the usual route but I was in for another surprise. I was being hand held and navigated step-by-step, turn-by-turn, into back streets I never knew existed. My attention was heightened, I couldn't let my concentration slip or I'd become clogged in one of the arterial streets. This was a new way of navigating, it was exciting, nerve wracking, but a revelation!
It can be a little overwhelming sometimes, often a lot, this 'New Year' of happiness which family and loved ones are speaking over us. Social media, blogs and books are all offering us a step-by-step plan to get us on track for this fresh start, this redemptive opportunity to get it right, or right-er this year. And I love all of them. As a planner, a come-asider, and often an over-doer, I value deeply the worth of regular course checks and measurable goals. But how many of us know that things to do not always go according to the map? 'A man's mind plans his way but God directs his steps'.
We can set out with good intentions and everything looking good on paper then life happens. As I'm sure you've experienced, the guilt, fear, discouragement and condemnation is real and the lists and goals which aimed initially to serve us now loom heavy over our heads like an unforgiving master.
Learning to trust the Lord for ourselves is a life-long tuition and I believe a fundamental desire in our God-shaped DNA which is why we keep coming back to this junction. The thing is, we don't trust ourselves to follow God, we default to the false security which formulas promote. But if we're to ever find a true, abiding peace in the middle of life's detours, we must believe that God is with us, that we can hear his voice, hope in him, and such hope will not put us to shame. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice".
How many of you looking back on last year can say that it all went according to plan? I would guess 99% of us would say the unexpected happened, and more than once. For the 1% whose life went to the chart, tell us your secrets!
I had my own little detour last year, one which I'm still slowly navigating. Finding myself in hospital with a mystery virus, in that valley of shadow it was his word hidden in my heart which lit the way. In the small hours of the isolation ward, alone I was never alone. In unknown territory, he was the constant guide at my side, every twist of blood results, every turn of diagnosis. Out of my comfort zone, he was my comfort. Taken by surprise and tempted to panic, he knew everything and calmed my disorientated heart.
So much of life had to go to the wayside, the plans, the hopes, the goals, the personal desires. I suddenly needed to be willing to yield, to surrender it all into the abyss of the unknown and was invited to go a different route, one which I'd not known before. The best most brilliant personal planner could not help me in that time, it was a new opportunity to draw closer to my true north star and navigate the unchartered course. It is so tempting to want to lean on my own understanding and predict how the journey will go, but only surrender to God brought an anchoring peace.
The Message translation reads, "Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace". Friends, we can certainly take inspiration from others but we need to watch the best teacher of all and the one who knows us inside out, we need to watch how Jesus does it, in doing that we'll tap into the unforced rhythms of grace.
What we also need are more navigators whose voice encourages us to seek the heart-map of Christ, who will lead us in following him closely and not another well meaning action plan. The healthy voice will draw you to listen to life-giving voice of the Spirit, not draw up another lifeless list.
A healthy voice will leave your heart feeling lifted not loaded down.
A healthy voice will point you to your own heart and encourage you to seek God in all your ways.
Friend, you are unique! Your own heart, your husband, your children, your work, gifts, abilities, extended family, finances, health, geography, calling - no one size can fit all and we desperately need to know it's ok not to go the same trodden routes as the masses.
Maybe you’ve felt a tug on your heart for a while, glimpsed a flicker in your peripheral vision inviting you to come see what the burning bush is all about?
It’s good to plan but not if it becomes a burden to you. I have entered numerous new years with the best made plans, usually going from 0-60 in a heartbeat. If I needed to exercise I’d draw up an intense regime for 5 days a week which I soon discovered I could not sustain over the long haul. What I could have done was simply ‘show up’ each day for some form of exercise, be it walking the dog, taking the bus rather than driving, or the craziest idea - deep clean a room! You get where you need to go often a lot easier and achieve more when you follow your own rhythm and route.
I often found I was loving my plan more than my people. Now I recognise when the frustration creeps in, the tension, tone of voice, the rising temperature of my expectations threatening to blow my lid. It's so freeing to know you can lay it all aside and in choosing to love your people over your plan you are right in the perfect will of God :)
And herein lies the tension; how to live with intention and purpose yet walk in unforced rhythms of grace. How to get to where we believe God wants us to go yet fully rely on him to lead us there. Letting go of expectations is so needful if we're going to live in grace and have peace. Let's face it, we will plan and need to, but we'll never get done all we wanted or the way we wanted it. No matter, you are deeply loved, precious and accepted in the beloved regardless of how things turn out.
Pray. Seek the wisdom God has for you, the mentor voice, the plan just for you. It may not look like what you expected but it will be life to you, less stress, more of feeling closer to him as you watch intently for his instruction at each turn.
I am hooked on Waze, I am a Waze evangelist! When you're using the app you can see other Waze users taking different routes, avoiding the hazards, the jams, alerting to accidents. Users are able to alert others when something unexpected crops up. Isn't that what we can offer each other? I love the friends who share their wisdom and experience, the heads-up on life alerts me to possible dangers. This little app has saved me so much time and stress. It's not always easy, I end up in areas that are unfamiliar, I have to pay close attention or I'll miss the turns, but it has changed my driving life, and for a London lass that's a win. I set out on my drives with a destination in mind but I now hold the route there loosely. I try not to question the directions when my own understanding thinks it knows better. It's great to plan, it's greater to acknowledge Him in all our planning and he will make the way clear.
Who do you turn to for this kind of mentorship and discipleship? I'd love to hear your podcast, blog or book recommendations for voices of grace who nurture you to walk a path of grace.
Great listening for a 2019 God's Waze start:
This was the first time I had ever heard of Sally Clarkson, it was a breath of fresh air and a balm of grace to this mum's heart. I know you'll be equally as blessed as you listen or read.
Great heart prep tools for 2019: Power Sheets by Lara Casey at cultivatewhatmatters.com
These are the pricier sort but oh so beautiful! Mine was given to me (love that friend!) and has actually lasted me a couple fo years now. Lara's gift to ask the right questions and point you in the right direction is unique, she gets you right to the heart of the issues of your life. There are others similar which you may know of if you know the content of Lara's for comparison. At the end of the day it's about a piece of paper and a pen, asking the right heart probing questions and setting out to see towards the life which truly bears fruit which matters.