16 November, 2020

Not able to make plans yet

This year has been one filled with pain for many. One particular struggle has been the uncertainty and difficulty in making plans. We've had it relatively easy compared to some other cross-cultural workers (we know some who've been stuck in countries where they'd rather not be), we had no "big" plans for the year. That is:

  • we'd not planned to go on home assignment, or return to the field
  • none of our boys have been in the middle of a major educational transition
  • we were settled in a good location and had work we could do regardless of the conditions around us
  • we had no major travel plans disrupted 
  • we got to take our annual summer holidays as planned in July
Of course there have been many disappointments: 
  • our son in Australia has not been able to visit us as he'd planned
  • school was online for several months 
  • lots of other things have been cancelled or radically changed
This blog post in 2015 was answering questions we were dealing with back then about how our eldest son would be transitioning to Australia. We had big, bold, audacious plans! Surprisingly, most of them came to be.
Somewhat random photo, taken during my time in the park
on Friday as I pondered some of the things I've written in 
this post.

This time round, with our middle son graduating (Lord willing) in June of next year, we've got a clearer idea of some things, and, for a couple of reasons, a much foggier idea of others. Who said it gets easier?

Five years ago I wrote that blog post while we were on home assignment, partly out of frustration at having to repeatedly explain things (but I’m not sure it helped much as most of those who asked weren’t reading this blog). 

The challenge we have is that Australians don’t understand the American schooling system our boys are in and most people we encounter in Japan don’t understand the Australian schooling system. Add to that the challenge of having to negotiate the journey of your kids transitioning to adult lives when you’re not working in your passport country. Plus the fact that these kids have lived most of their lives overseas and have almost no friends in their passport country.

All these things add extra layers to such a time in life. The natural result is lots of discussion and plans. David and I love a real-life puzzle and we love planning, but this puzzle has too many pieces that aren’t even in the box yet.

One thing I’ve been struggling with is that the natural question to ask people at this stage of life is about those plans. The thing I’ve found is that most people would like to hear a neat, ABC plan. But what if you don’t have a neat “ABC” plan? What if your “plan” looks like a bunch of squiggles that don’t make much sense? What if your plans look more like a bunch of possibilities and maybes, than anything concrete? That makes for awkward conversation. It also leads to worry. At the moment, my challenge it is to trust God in all this. To “be still and know that he is God”.

I’m reading Sword Fighting: Applying God's word to win the battle for our mind by Christine Dillon, a friend of mine. She’s asked me to write a review when I’m done, but I’m not finished the book yet. However, the other day it was good to read the chapter about worry. Thinking about the story of Abraham and Sarah—God had promised them they would have children, but they’d had none thus far and were getting older. So Sarah came up with a plan, which turned out to be a bad plan, not God’s plan. 

I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to “help God out” by coming up with a plan that isn’t in line with his plans. But sitting still and trusting God is hard. And talking to people who enquire about the plans of our son who is in year 12 just highlights how many ifs and buts there are. It also seems that for people of our age, suggesting post-school plans for teenagers is a particularly enjoyable/tempting thing to do? We've been on the receiving end of so much well-meaning advice and suggestions, but . . . it hasn't necessarily helped me in waiting on God.

I’m reminded of the passage in Ecclesiastes 3 that begins “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.” I reckon this fits (though there's no actual verse that says this): “There’s a time to make plans and there’s a time to wait.” Right now, for us, it’s time to wait, and trust in the Lord with all our hearts, leaning not on our own understanding and God will direct our paths (paraphrase from Proverbs 3:5-6).

This is getting to be a long post. But as I've thought about this over the last few days, God has been working in me. Yesterday I looked up "wait" in the Bible. It occurs many times, but here are a couple that are relevant to our current situation:

"In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly" (Psalm 5:3 NIV).
Indeed, we've been laying our requests before the Lord many, many mornings. We also need to wait expectantly for his answers (which may not come quickly).

"I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, in his word I put my hope" (Psalm 130:5).

Yesterday we also were privileged to hear a Japanese missionary from Wycliffe speak on Psalm 13. 

How long, Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me. 
He pointed out that this was probably written later in David's life, as he reflected on the many struggles he'd had in his life. Verse 3 is David's prayer: that he would have "light" or understanding, that he would be able to see God in the midst of the struggles. 

The preacher also took a little detour to talk about the phrase "it came to pass". It's a common phrase in older versions of the English Bible. In modern translations it is often translated as "after that" or "one day". But he pondered what God might be saying to us through this Hebrew phrase and thought it might be a reminder that these things haven't come to stay. That no matter what you're going through it will pass—keep your eyes on heaven.

I'm praying that I'll have wisdom to deal with conversations that encourage me to worry, and more conversations that point me to trusting and waiting on God. And that God will enable us to sit with these current uncertainties and trust him to work it all out. 


rosie said...

Thank you Wendy, so much to think zbout in this. I love reading messages from God through His Word.
I have found emailed.

Wendy said...

Thanks Rosie.