Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Planning, Expectation & Joy

Why is it we expect life to turn out just like we planned?

Has that ever happened? Is it realistic to even hope? I don't think so. Yet we plan our life's biggest events believing they will turn out just exactly as we planned. And when they don't? Of course, we're crushed.

I have weddings on my mind right now. My son will be getting married this Fall and my friend's son is getting married in a couple of weeks. I also have the opportunity to observe other brides-to-be since I work in a college. Most brides are. . . well, beautiful of course. . . but before the actual day, they can become spinning, green monsters with five eyes, thirty-six hands and at least three mouths with which to bark orders. Not my daughter-in-law-to-be, of course, she's actually quite relaxed about the whole thing. At least from what I can tell from a few thousand miles and five months away.

Girls typically plan their wedding in their head from the time they first played house or Barbie. We know the colors, the dress-style, the location, even the weather conditions. No, we never stopped to consider that there might be some things in our planning that were beyond our control. In our fantasy world, it was all in our control.

Thus the problem when the actual moment arrives in our life. Why aren't things going as planned? Why doesn't everyone know what I want? Why don't we have enough money for all of it? And why can't the weather cooperate? In our fantasy, Aunt So & So never wore a Hawaiian-print pants suit that clashed with our color scheme. Our nephew never knocked over the punch and Uncle Here-We-Go-Again didn't get plastered at the open bar.

It's not just at weddings that we have these unrealistic expectations about life. Almost any event that we know about ahead of time, anything that takes planning, we expect to be perfect--according to our plan.

And what happens when it doesn't go according to plan?

Even our life, itself, never goes according to our plan or expectation. We never planned to marry an abusive person. Or, we never planned to get divorced or have someone close to us pass away early in life. We never thought we'd still be earning such a low income and be unable to buy a house at 40. We never expected to have a child with a handicap.

What about smaller expectations, a little closer to home, maybe? I never thought I'd still be struggling with this food addiction by this age. I never thought I'd react like my parents did. I thought I would've accomplished so much more for God by now.

Expectations like these can lead to discouragement or something more severe.

Planning is vital, don't get me wrong. We need to plan. And we need expectations too, but hey, we're not yet in Heaven and we're not yet perfect. Life will NOT go as planned, you can plan on it, so leave yourself some emotional latitude. When you've laid out your plans and done your best to follow them; when you've given your all and still it didn't turn out the way you wanted it to, then take a step back. Breathe God's fresh air. Allow Him to be sovereign. His plans are not our plans. He can take the mess you think you have and work it all out for good--even for the best.

All this to say: Make your plans and follow them. Then enjoy the ride, bumps and all. Weddings, marriages, coordinated events, jobs and life will be so much more fun if you do. Don't stress over the little things. Focus on your blessings. Enjoy!

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