It’s been about 6 months since my life has seen much “normal”. In the midst of unexpected life situations at home, we have found ourselves travelling with our family more than we usually do. We have crossed through 28 states and through 12,000 miles since the end of June, and suddenly I find myself at home again, trying to return to some sort of routine.
I have to admit – for all the joy and discovery I find as we travel, it leaves me feeling a bit untethered.
It’s been just long enough for me to kind of forget what “normal” is. Long enough for the edges of my days to feel a bit frayed.
I begin my days unsure of what to expect. And I end my days not knowing if I’ve accomplished what I was “supposed” to do.
I’m sure you can relate? It happens to all of us – these days of unpredictability and inconsistency.
It’s an unsettling kind of feeling, isn’t it? Because most of us like our parameters. We like to believe we have some sort of control over our days. It gives us direction, helps with discipline, and isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Life is so much simpler when lived by rules – it is manageable. But what do we do when it is suddenly taken away?
I didn’t know I was doing it, but lately I found that I have been sub-consciously waiting for this season to end. I told myself I would start to work out again when life was “normal”. I would find time for more “planned” romance in my marriage when our schedule got organized again. I could excuse being impatient with my family because the uncertainty of my days caused an undercurrent of stress in my spirit. I would start memorizing Scripture when I could do it in a more consistent way.
I was putting life on hold, waiting for the right time to start living it.
We often fall into this storybook mindset of what “normal” should be, and though we all seem to define it somewhat differently, it makes us feel safe. So when the unexpected happens, we are often left undone.
So I wonder? What happens when we flip this notion that life needs to follow our pre-ordained pattern? What does the Bible say about how we pattern our lives? “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps 90:2)
“Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Prov 27:1
“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes.” (James 4:13-16)
I find myself wincing a little at James here. Please don’t tell me my beloved schedule is an arrogant scheme! I have never thought of my plans as boasting, but when we make our schedule into our god, this is our downfall. And I think this is James’ point – our calendar and our plans, are not organically bad or arrogant, but they must always be held with open fingers, fully submitted to the will and direction of God.
So here I go, stating the obvious. We live our lives in a frenzied rush, waiting for a return to “normal”, when the reality is, we have no guarantee of anything beyond today. This moment is what we have been given by God, so how am I going to live it well in the situation I currently find myself in?
What if, in the midst of our routines, we insert those key few words that James suggests – “If it is the Lord’s will”. For all our plans, all our lofty dreams, are simply a part of a greater plan being worked out by our God. I wonder how many moments God has planned for us that we miss because we are following our own simple idea of how this day should go? I am not against schedules and routines – but I don’t want to be bound by them. Let’s shake off the shackles of our own expectations and awaken to the wonder of God’s greater plan.
So as we go about our “normal” days – sitting in traffic, working at the office, conducting a meeting, flying across the country, or washing that 10th load of laundry, let’s remember that “When our [plans] are interrupted, His are not. His plans are proceeding exactly as scheduled, moving us always (including those minutes or hours or years which seem most useless or wasted or unendurable) “toward the goal of true maturity” (Rom 12:2 JBP).” – Elisabeth Eliott.