I did a lot better this week with spending quiet time with God. I think I'll share with you the bulk of what I read from one article in Discipleship Journal this week. The article was on regret, which I deal with a lot. I would rather prevent a problem than deal with one, so I generally spend time thinking about how to do things perfectly (or at least in the best way possible) so that I don't have to fix a problem later. If something does go wrong, I often try to analyze what I could have done to prevent it or what I need to do to fix the situation. In general, I think I waste a lot of mental energy in prevent and fix mode. Anyway, I'll share with you what the author, Paula Rhinehart, had to say about releasing regret. She specifically is talking about what we allow our brains to dwell on when life isn't turning out the way we would have hoped.
"God is good and God is great but sometimes His greatness and goodness come together much farther down the road than we would hope."
"If we interpret our stories based soley on visible data, we can easily get mired in regret. The sovereignty of God gives us a much larger framework for making sense of our experiences."
"How are we going to allow the detours and the lost years and the mistakes to take their proper place in lives that are somehow being orchestrated by God?"
"Our wasted years contain seeds that will blossom in ways that we never expected."
"His tales of redemption through our lives are always larger than we imagine."
Her words brought up a new side to God's sovereignty in my life. While I do believe God desires for us to live passionately and to put forth our best effort, I think His viewpoint on mistakes and detours are much different than mine. I always believed that mistakes and detours were usually attributed to my own inadequecies or the inadequecies of others. And this may be true in some circumstances. But those same mistakes or detours also might be a part of what God is doing in my life. Today I read an online devotion that dovetailed so nicely with this.
"I want God to make sense, but He doesn’t. All too often, He seems to choose the exact opposite of what I would choose. It’s like He tells me to move to the ocean. So I buy bathing suits and a boat and a dock and I do everything I can to get ready for water. Then He says, “OK, you’re moving to the ocean, so the first thing I want you to do is go spend a few years in the desert. I want you to go a million miles away from the ocean.”
That doesn’t make sense. That is illogical. But I swear that is how God works. When Joseph had a dream of greatness, the first step was slavery. When Christ was called forward to save mankind during the baptism with John, the next thing he did was go spend 40 days alone. When you were called to get a new job, the next thing that happened was you got a promotion at your current one. When you were called into the ministry, instead of going to seminary God asked you to study Italian for a few years.
Sometimes we get the opposite of what we expect, like Joseph getting a shackle instead of a scepter. But when it comes to God, He always gives us what we need." (From http://97secondswithgod.blogspot.com/2008/07/genesis-37-opposite-of-me.html)
My humanness does not always see the richness that mistakes and heartaches and seeminlgy pointless misadventures add to my life, but God does. This also fits well with something our Sunday school class was discussing on Sunday. I was relating how it is so hard to see where God is going and how hard it is to understand how His goodness fits in with the rottenness of life. I was especially thinking about my children who will be spending years of their lives in orphanage care. I know God can and will use this to shape their hearts in positive ways but at the same time you can't help but think how unfair it is. But reading the things I read this week, it made me realize that God's plan for my kids, if they choose to obey Him, is ten times bigger than even the best dream I could imagine for their lives. So while I can see that their years in Haiti may be teaching them to have a great compassion for the poor or to want to serve in Haiti as a doctor or to want to become an adult who helps children who need families and love, the truth is God's plan is even better and bigger than that. The wasted years are not wasted. The detours are not trip ending. The misadventures have a purpose. For me and for them. And sometimes, these events are allowed, even planned by God, as part of God giving us what we need to develop in maturity.