Desiring God’s Plan – MVC Guest Author, Audrey Silva
As a teacher who thrives on a structured routine and well planned out future, this new ‘shelter in place’ has drastically changed the way that I live and interact with my students, co-workers, and even my family. Currently, like many California educators I’m trying to plan a new curriculum to meet the next phase of ‘distance learning.’ For many educators, ‘distance learning’ and online teaching isn’t easy. We’re having to learn new programs, plan lessons that should be taught in person and move them to online platforms. We want to be with our students, in our classrooms, because this is where we “know the things and teach the things,” and honestly, where we are most comfortable. Personally, for my own classroom, flexibility has always been a gift that I have given myself, ironically however, I do not apply that same flexibility to my own plans for my life.
From as early as I can remember, I’ve always been a planner. I’m the family member that sends out a calendar invite for an important date six months in advance. I lovingly agitate my “go with the flow” husband with my plans of booking vacations months and sometimes a year in advance; worried that if we don’t get something on the calendar it won’t happen and we’ll regret not going. Yes, I’ve had to learn to be flexible in my planning, especially being married to a farmer. So when my plan works out and we’re able to get away from our overworked and active schedule we make a run for it and don’t look back. Yet, there have also been times when disappointment has set in because the weather has thwarted a trip to Disneyland or a ‘stay in place’ decree and COVID-19 virus has hijacked a spring break trip and my expectations and plans are ruined.
I chalk up my long-range planning to the fact that professionally, I am a teacher. Naturally, I plan out a full school year by looking at the units and skills that I need to teach. I have 180 days to teach the skills at my assigned grade levels, impart wisdom, and to build relationships with my students. Yet, now I sit at home ‘sheltered in place,’ trying to find a new way to deliver my curriculum, meet the needs of my students, and continue to build relationships with them through ‘distance learning.’ I’m left with anxiousness and a heart broken with disappointment for my senior students who are having to cancel or postpone the events that are a rite of passage in high school, things like prom, grad night, and even graduation. Yes, these students will be able to bond together and unify in a way that no other generation before them has, however, in itself this was not the plan that any of us had in mind.
Looking back over my life, I see significant areas where the Lord has shaped me both positively and negatively through my need to plan. There have been difficult moments and events in my life, where in my own sinful nature I bulldozed over asking what God’s plan for my life might be and I headed out unaware of the unmet expectations, broken plans, disappointment, and pain that lie ahead. Likewise, there have been sweet God given moments where I relinquished the control and need to plan, and with the Lord beside me, He has guided me to His path for my life where I have been met with fulfilled desires, contentment, love, and joy.
As I age, I’m learning the wisdom of holding my plans loosely and surrendering them to the Lord. However, as a natural planner this is not an easy process or something that I can honestly say I have perfected. In fact, even this past week, I was filled with anger and frustration when I received news about my teaching schedule for the following school year because it wasn’t what “my plan” longed for. I felt alone and abandoned and sentenced to misery. Not to mention, that I still am unable to reconnect with my current students as well. My emotions were running rampant, because once again I expected my plan to supersede what the Lord’s plan for my life is.
Later that same evening, I entered into a place of honesty and vulnerability with my Journey: small group, wherein I shared my current place of struggle that I was angry and frustrated. As I was led through a spiritual exercise called, Visio Divina, I was guided to look, reflect, meditate, and rest on an image of Jesus. Truly, when I first began the Visio Divina exercise, I wrestled in my mind, it was a hurricane of emotions, fears, and anger. Knowing that anger is generally a secondary emotion, I spent some quiet moments reflecting on what was beneath the anger. The Lord helped me to become aware that in my humanity, I selfishly was feeling that I was alone in my situation and abandoned; sentenced to another challenging teaching year. Gracefully, the Lord reminded me that He is in control during this unknown time. That He has not abandoned me, that I am not alone, that there are others who are also experiencing the same feelings and uncertainty. The Lord quieted my whirlwind mind that was desperately trying to make my plan work on my own accord. The Lord gently reminded me to surrender this time to Him, that He will make a way and a plan.
Eugene H. Peterson in The Message translates Jeremiah 29:11-14, “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”
I’m grateful that it is that simple…all I need to do is to “call upon God,” to “seek Him” and the Lord will listen. For when I look to the Lord, and I surrender my plan and my way, he brings me something more glorious than I could have ever imagined. I’m in awe that the Everlasting Teacher isn’t frustrated with my inability to learn lessons quickly. I’m thankful that He lovingly allows me to wrestle with my own humanity and inflexibility and instead provides me with the choice to lay my desired plan before Him.