by Alyssa von Helms
November 11, 2020
I was supposed to be in New Zealand today. Well . . . “supposed to be.” Clearly when I bought the ticket I had plans that look very different from the current state of affairs. They certainly did not involve me sitting on hold for X number of minutes waiting to talk to someone about the status of my flights and whether I’d be getting a refund or even a credit. I was supposed to be hiking the rolling hills, taking a plethora of pictures, road tripping in a tiny car with friends I haven’t seen in too long. I was supposed to be checking an item off my bucket list, adding another tick to my travel log. I was not supposed to be here, in California, counting down the days to another weekend.
Supposed to. It’s funny how that phrase gets under our skin and needles us into thinking we’ve made a wrong turn somewhere.
After all, it is possible to get on the wrong track in life, but almost never from listening to our supposed to’s and almost always from neglecting to check in with God.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,” but the only way we can know those plans is if we slow down and ask for directions: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11a; 13)
That’s been a point of conviction for me this year, so I’ve been practicing changing the tone of my inevitable “why is this happening to me” complaints. I ask God why a lot, but usually in a woe is me kind of way. I’ve been working, instead, on changing the pitch of my complaints (i.e., pity parties) into a real question: why is this happening to me? How could God be working this for my good and His glory (and can I get on board with it or am I going to sulk a little longer)? If it’s painful, am I making the most of the season and learning what He has for me here?
I’m not an expert yet, but I have found that asking “why?” narrows my focus and adds purpose to pain, no matter how big or small. More importantly, it reorders my supposed to’s. Why did this or that not happen? What is God doing here and what am I supposed to do here?
I thought I was supposed to be spending the beginning of November in New Zealand. It turns out I’ll be spending the beginning of November in a new house instead. It wasn’t a magical journey to get there—but it wasn’t a horrible slog either. From my earthly perspective, it happened like most things God does: practically overnight. Unexpectedly. Improbably. Purposefully. With lots of time for me to pitch a fit beforehand or lay a long list of complaints at God’s door with a detailed section demanding answers to why things aren’t going according to my plan for good measure.
Except this time, I didn’t. I had been tempted to complain the week before, when another evening of after-work house hunting with my future housemates ended in failure. I’d started thinking up my list of grievances, comparing my plan with the reality God placed me in, and I stopped myself.
And a week later, God gave me a good gift, the one I’d been asking for and the one He knew He would give me before I even knew to ask for it.
Supposed to. Aren’t we glad God has rescued us from all our supposed to’s and offered us a chance to exchange our plans for His?
Alyssa is looking forward to moving with her exorbitant collection of coffee mugs to her new home in Tustin. She is not looking forward to cleaning out her closet.