So, what’s the plan?
It’s a simple question but it sure feels like it carries a whole lot of weight, especially in your twenties and thirties, maybe before life has settled into a routine or a predictable pattern for many people (if it ever does).
The question pops up innocently from acquaintances, ex-coworkers, or from old college roommates. Or it comes up less innocently from family members, close friends, your current boss. For those given to trying on different homes, careers, general locations and life directions, it can be difficult and sometimes impossible to answer.
Up until the age of about eighteen, or twenty-two if you go to college, months and years can carry on without question. You finish seventh grade, you go to eighth grade. You finish eighth grade, you go to high school. You finish fall semester, you go to spring semester. There isn’t a lot of room for variation when school charts the course for you. But then something happens. You finish school and you’re supposed to start “real life”.
“Real life” isn’t made of exams and report cards, or even internships and resumes. It’s made of all sorts of heavy choices with uncertain outcomes. It’s full of possibilities, especially in the U.S. where, comparatively speaking, we have tons of opportunities to sort of forge our own lives- that is, the ability to decide where to live, what to do, how to focus time, energy, and emotion.
How do we want to try and make it financially? How do we want to prioritize our desires, for having a career, or a family, or serving others? How do we want to try and follow the will of God for our lives?
I think especially for those who believe that nothing is coincidental, that there is a larger plan and a Creator behind that plan, and that we have a part to play in participating in that plan, that question can feel heavy. How do we figure out what the plan is? Are we supposed to figure out the plan? Is there a plan?
Last Sunday at church, a visiting pastor- Eric Johnson of Bethel church- came and spoke about this subject. He said that too often, people are paralyzed by the idea of that perfect plan, the elusive will of God for their lives. They live in fear of making the wrong decision and dishonoring God or throwing their lives off track- so they don’t do anything at all, refusing to make big decisions or move forward.
Even if you don’t believe in the will of God, I think cultural pressures can still make you feel that your life should follow a sort of course charted for success. Think about the pressure to get a high-paying job by a certain age, “settle down” with a family, or obtain a certain degree of education. One false move can jeopardize your chance at success and fulfillment.
But is that really true? Is there One Plan? Or is it possible that your life can follow a number of different paths?
I’m not sure I have any definitive answers to these questions. In fact, I know that I don’t. But I do know this- He works all things together for the good of those who love Him*.
We can screw up again and again, step outside of the plan (if there is one), major in something we end up hating, move to a city that’s not quite fitting, and maybe even miss out on an opportunity that would have been absolutely life-changing and revelatory.
But at the end of the day, we are not powerful enough to place ourselves outside of His redemptive mercy and grace. And there always seem to be second chances.