What to Do When Plans Fail and We Become Sick at Heart
Plans and lists are wonderful things, aren't they. Set out those goals, drink up that checklist, and let's all toast to a job well done!
In a way, that type of goal setting works well. Set a business goal to serve X amount of clients in three months. Check. Set a goal to get the dishes washed by the end of the day. Check. Make sure the car has an oil change by the end of the week. Check. Where it begins to break down is when we apply it to a timeline for our lives.
Have a baby. Barren. Fully get over a painful breakup. Years. Get married. Crickets.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN LIFE PLANS FAIL
With all the best laid plans and ambitions there are always times when those plans and goals let you down because they were never meant to bear the weight of life. The road map is set. The itinerary is smooth, and there's a full basket of jerky, pringles, apples, and chocolate chip cookies all set to go. You're even well on the way, and then, out in the middle of nowhere, there's a bridge washed out or a road closed and the whole balance of the plan jerks sideways.
Plans are good. They include things like timelines, goals, visions, and dreams. There's nothing wrong with any of this, and it is part of what makes us human. What happens is that things go wrong. It could be the best, most beautiful plan in the whole world and something happens to trip it, and suddenly it and you are on the ground.
What does this look like in real life? Say you've been trying for a baby for the last three years and you just can't get pregnant. Three years is a long time, and you find your identity and worth becoming fragile glass collectibles caught in an earthquake. Add to that a possible grief of having lost a baby or two in between, and the very purpose of your existence is called into question. It's raw, it's gritty, it hurts like hell. There are no ways to gloss over this and you can't just simply step out of it, because there are a 2,068 steps ahead of you until you even begin to make some sense of what is going on.
SETTING BOUNDARIES AROUND OUR PLANS
When things don't work out the way we thought they would it's important to understand that the pain is valid. God created you with the capability to want things and this is good. I think it probably hurts Him as much as it does us when we have to give up something, whether temporarily or permanently. Sure, He can give us what we want, but sometimes there is a greater purpose at hand.
When I was 18 I was pretty sure that 24 years old was the perfect time to get married. I would spend a few years traveling, get to know myself, and then meet someone with whom I felt at home, and make a home. However, at 24 I found myself spending the winter out of the country, having the time of my life, working odd jobs, and definitely not married or anywhere close.
One year bled into another and now I'm 29, single, and I can't say it's always a picnic, though the amount of adventure, freedom, learning, and good times I've had in those years has been truly incredible. Still, from time to time it disrupts my sense of security, my sense of self-worth (who likes getting picked last?) and yes, it has meant 1,825 more days and nights alone. I don't downplay that, just as I would hate to gloss over the pain of someone who can't have a baby.
But at some point we have to leave the "I don't" and "I can't" and "I didn't" and "I don't have" at the door of a place called release. It's hard to admit that we can't always have what we want, especially in the face of every other person we know getting to have what we want. It forces you to drill down deep into the bedrock to establish a foundation, and it results in an rock solid confidence that no matter what happens to us, we can prevail.
One of the most important things we can do is establish boundaries around our plans, hopes and dreams by setting eternal perspective in our minds and hearts. Suffering is part of life, unfortunately, and these setbacks shouldn't make us believe that this is the end. It's not the end.
There's nothing that can permanently steal our joy or peace. Nothing. If you allow disrupted life plans and hope deferred to stretch you in all its pain to a place where you can say, "God is still good"; who you are in 5 years will shock you into tears of gratitude. I could probably have arrived to this point while married, but I see clearly that these last five years have been so good for me, and so good, that I can't say anything other than:
God is good. If He becomes everything to you in the absence of the thing you thought you wanted most, you are poised in the cusp of His hand. Treasured. Loved, and Safe.
And what failed plans can prevail against that?