Last Sunday the new priest at the Mass I attended introduced himself to the flock. He had an interesting background, very secular, and came to the priesthood later in life after a career in the energy industry. And as he jokingly lamented with a sigh, he even used to own a house and a BMW.
His point was that you never know what God's plan is for you. He did not, for the longest time, feel a calling to the priesthood or any inclination toward that life but, ultimately, it is what God wanted for him - and it is a much better path. He closed by emphasizing that God has a plan for each one of us, whether we can see and understand it now or not.
This got me thinking. I love that concept - well, let's not call it a concept, but a reality - that God "has a plan" and at the same time feel conflicted by it. I walked away wondering, what if I don't like God's plan for me? Evidently that is something I am afraid of, but it hadn't surfaced until hearing this talk.
I mentally stopped myself in my tracks and reminded myself that a.) God created me and knows me better than I know myself, and b.) what He desires of His children is total happiness and joy. Additionally, I am of the belief that the things we do not like which God lays in our path - delays, trials, sadness, what-have-you - while inconvenient, are an opportunity to draw closer to him. Of course, it is up to us to look at it that way; one could also be enduring something difficult and simply end up bitter and jaded (and I know those people - and I'm sure you do, too). We have a choice in how we approach hardship. It has taken me a while to fully understand that, because one can "accept" hardship and still have a bad attitude. To fully accept, I realized, means carrying on in the face of difficulty - despite difficulty - with hope in your heart and trust in God that He will work it out in His time. Not just say you trust - but actually really and truly, honest to goodness, accept what is given you and believe there is a plan. And persist, all the same.
If it is true that God knows me, loves me and wants what's best for me, then His plan for me should not hurt, right? I mean in an abstract sense. Meaning, he wouldn't want me to become a nun if that weren't what I wanted and felt called to be and do. I don't need to go turn myself in to the nearest convent and see if it sticks to make Him happy, all the while wishing I had never set foot in the place. That doesn't make any sense.
If that is true, then perhaps it is also true that pain can actually come from denying God's plan. It is not that I actively want to shy away from what God wants for me, but what if I am afraid? Or too distracted to notice the path?
So from all of this I thought, it is time to really look at what I believe. If I am afraid of God's path for me because it is unknown or I suspect it does not align with my own interests, then that has implications for what I believe of God's love. It means, ultimately, that I doubt God's love - that I see him as some grand puppet master creating plans for the sake of his own amusement, like a bully frying ants with a magnifying glass because he can.
This goes contrary to everything that God is and all that He created us to be. It is impossible that surrendering to the path that God creates for you could create unhappiness, if it is truly your path. I think, for example, about all the joyful nuns and priests I know who have no doubt of their purpose, and live it with grace and love. Further, it also means that, at times when one's life plan is murky or not immediately understandable, it is simply time to let go that sense of control, relax, and trust. It does not mean kind of trusting until the plan you have engineered comes to fruition, it means gratefully accepting your current lot in life and asking God, "How can you use me here, where I am?"
I have a lot to learn about letting go control, but thinking about all of this has helped. It is a much more joyful, simple thing to accept than to fight. I do not mean in the sense of relinquishing ambition or a sense of personal responsibility, but of being more realistic about what you actually are personally responsible for. The last week has been rather more peaceful, as a result. Faith, then, is loving God despite not understanding what comes next - perhaps because you don't know what comes next - because what is certain is that God loves us. Faith means simply knowing God loves us, through everything, until the end of time. There are some things I may never have the answer for. But I will always know God's love for me.