Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
With the New Year approaching, many people are thinking over the past year and thinking about what the future may hold. “What will this next year be like? Where will I be? What will I be doing?” We ask ourselves and those we love these questions. They are not bad questions, but I have learned that my answers and my plans don’t always work out as expected. We all have these expectations of life, whether it is about our dream home, dream job, what marriage will be like, or what type of parent we will be — and maybe like me, you even have an expectation of how God wants to use you.
When my husband, Nate, and I first got married, I remember asking him where he thought we would be in 5 years. I asked because I didn’t think we would still be living in Tuscaloosa, though I was not sure where we would be living. All that didn’t keep me from dreaming and having my own ideas of where we would move and raise our family. There was also the idea that we would move because of my job, since as a nurse there are plenty of opportunities all over the country.
So 3 years ago when Nate was given an opportunity to take a new job in a new state and we knew that this was God’s plan for our lives, my expectations had to shift. I was behind him 100% even though God’s plan had not exactly been what I had expected. Like I said, I thought it would be my job we would be moving for and God would work it out for Nate to have a ministry opportunity wherever that was, but I was wrong. God did not seem to be following my plan.
When the time came to actually move, there was a lot of excitement and anticipation for what this move would mean for our family and my plan (yes, again I had a plan) but AGAIN, God had a different plan in mind. I loved my job as a nurse and though we had talked about me staying home for a season it was not my plan at this point. Before we left I made calls for jobs but oddly never heard back from any of them. So we decided I would look for jobs once we moved. My expectation was that with my prior experience I would easily find a job of my choice. However, I was relying on MY plan, and if I am honest, I had not really sought God on this “new plan” I formed. I made assumptions based on what was logical: I have a nursing degree so I should use it! This was my plan. It was THE plan… or so I thought.
God didn’t seem to follow my plan, though, so after wrestling with God through prayer we came to the place that maybe I should stay home and be with our kids for a season. Again, this was not my plan and I had some difficulty with this plan that I did not want to admit, not even to Nate. On the one hand, selfishly I was ok because it meant I would get Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my family, which had not happened over the previous 6 years. But on the other hand I struggled — and I mean like deep, dark inner struggle — because I was not in control of this plan. By choosing to obey I was relinquishing my control to God. Not an easy thing! Oftentimes obedience is not easy and it doesn’t mean there is not a struggle.
Nursing and taking care of patients had been the main area I thought God would use me to share my faith. Whether it was with a patient or a co-worker, this had been where I thought God would use me. So when the choice was made to stay home my biggest expectation of all was shaken. How would God use me? Up until this point I thought I knew where and how God wanted to use me. Now I did not really know anyone, I wasn’t a part of anything and I had this new role of stay-at-home mom to figure out.
So I threw myself into every opportunity that came along: a running group, multiple Bible studies, starting a blog, mom groups, renovating a house, and serving in multiple areas. But ultimately I was still grasping for some control of God’s plan. My expectations had been ripped out from under me, even if for a good reason, and I was struggling to process it all. I must confess that from the outside looking in, things may have looked like I was doing ok, but inside I struggled with this idea that I was a “tag along” in God’s plan for someone else.
In the midst of struggling to figure out just how God was going to use me as a “tag along”, he brought some specific people into my life to speak his truth over my struggle. It was not until the recent words of a friend that it really sank in that God’s plan does not depend on where I live or my job. Yes, it may have been Nate’s job that got me to move to this exact location and God had specific people here I needed to meet, but more importantly God wanted to teach me whose I am. His purpose is not contingent on where I am in 5 years or what I am doing, but WHO I am — or rather WHOSE I am. No matter where I live, what my job is, or what I do, God says to love Him and love others.
My expectations of how God would use me may have been contingent on where I was, my job, and my activities; however, I have learned that how God uses me is not determined by those things. It is determined by who He says I am, and He says I am loved. And so are you. It was decided at the beginning that God wants to use us for His plan. So we can change jobs, locations, titles or labels, but the person God expects us to become is not determined by those things. He wants to use us wherever we are to love others and share His love. If you find yourself in a place different than you expected, I invite you to loosen the grip on those 5 year plans, to focus on becoming more like Jesus and trusting God to use you to love others. This year, try asking these questions instead:
How will I be more like Jesus in 5 years?
What does God expect of me?
How can I love over the next 5 years?
At The Well, we desire to be a community of women who live out our potential and purpose in Christ, lead where God has placed us, and encourage others to do the same.
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