“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 New American Standard Version (a most literal, though difficult to read translation)
I’m going to begin by quoting myself from my other blog. On May 9th I wrote:
“I believe in free will, which means that I believe that people have the ability to mess with God's plan. Sort of. Mango & I both believe that he was supposed to be at his current teaching position for at least one more year. We have been saying since Vespera came to us that he would stay until she graduated for sure, and then he'd reassess his career plans. He knew that he wasn't going to be in the same position forever, that there was some possibility that the school would be closing...or shrinking. Well, the school shrunk a year too soon, and he was "excessed," meaning that he still has a job in the district but not at his school, Vespera's school. The smaller size of the school has a lot to do with mismanagement, ridiculous policies...in short, fallen people living imperfect lives. Since I don't believe that God wills the bad things in the world to happen, I have to believe that people choose these things of their own free will. If people choose things of their own free will, they do things outside of God's ideal for them.”
“…having said all that, I think we're in front row seats this year seeing how the plan we really felt we were following has been messed with by people outside the plan. And now we're waiting to see what GOOD God will bring of this. Because we also believe that God works all things together for the good of those who love God and have been called according to God's purposes.”
That’s what I wrote May 9th. Since then, Mango was re-hired at the same school for next year. It’s interesting that we made a whole bunch of other “plans,” thinking he would have to work somewhere else next year, but each one of those plans was thwarted. Then the call came that he’d be right back in the same school, just as we had firmly believed was God’s plan to begin with. God sure knows how to lead when we’re stumbling along.
I have a number of similar stories I could tell. It seems that we (and God with us) are often operating out of “Plan B,” something different from the original, ideal plan. For example, I don’t really believe that adoption is part of God’s perfect or ideal plan because I don’t believe that God predestines children to be abandoned, orphaned, abused, neglected, or left in hopeless situations with little possibility for future success. I really cannot reconcile those things with a God who is self-described as “love.” If God is love, then God doesn’t predestine these things. But I do believe that since the ideal doesn’t always happen, God can orchestrate a second plan, a Plan B. This is why our family adopted Vespera, and she is a beautiful part of our lives. Because we choose to love and follow God, God can use us to bring about something good and beautiful, even if it wasn’t the original plan. In fact, the way that our family has connected, the way that little pieces of Vespera’s life fit so perfectly into our lives, the way that her interests and experiences match ours, and the way our previous lives fit like puzzle pieces into the gaps in her life makes it seem as though this was all part of God’s plan to begin with. I don’t think that, though. I think only that since things didn’t work out for Vespera’s family of origin, God took us, two people who were willing to follow a calling and matched us with her. And the whole thing has benefited us every bit as much as it has her. It’s so perfect, but yet not perfect.
Let me give another personal example. I think it’s totally outside God’s plan or God’s will that I experienced sexual abuse as a child. If I had to believe that God willed these things, I’d have to walk away from God right now. Since my experience was so far from God’s perfect plan, though, I honestly believe that God guided me to Mango…someone who had heard enough stories and witnessed enough of the pain and trouble in the world that he could help me heal and bring “good” from absolute evil. I believe that since we both had experiences outside of God’s “will,” God brought us together to find healing, and to, in fact, create something beautiful – a relationship that mirrors God’s tremendous love for people and a family that has the depth and strength to love people and serve others in ways we’d never have dreamed. God can take the broken pieces of our lives and create something good if we are willing.
Of course, this also means that we, as God’s people, have more responsibility than I want to contemplate. The idea that I, myself, can screw up God’s perfect plan is enough to make me want to lock myself in a closet for the rest of my life. But then I REALLY wouldn’t be following God’s plan. So, I muddle through. My only hope is in God’s grace. When I deviate from the plan, God’s grace is sufficient. God’s love is eternal, unconditional. This is what keeps me out of the closet. God can work with the messes I make if I keep my heart open and willing to follow. I really, honestly believe that what God cares about is our hearts. God is always able to intervene in the lives of people when those people are willing to follow…whenever we’re willing to follow. I think that this is what interests God the most – not the particular things that we called to do, but the fact that we do them. God is interested in our love and our willingness to follow the calling.
In answer to your own questions Heather, all I know is that it’s totally possible for God to use the experiences you’ve had in between that chapel time in college (I never particularly enjoyed chapel, either) and this moment right now to make something so “good” that it doesn't matter if it's Plan A, B, C or D. Yes, I believe people can mess with God’s plan. But I also believe that, if we’re willing, God can guide us into the “good” that is promised for those who love God and are called by God. God can turn ALL THINGS to good. I don’t even believe that God brings us along some arduous and difficult path just because we didn’t follow the first time. I believe that God really, really loves us and wants desperately for us to experience that love. God is ready to use us whenever we’re willing. Maybe your calling is different now. That isn’t what matters. What matters is your willingness to follow.
I have a whole lot more I could say, but this is all I have time to type out at the moment. I talked this all through with Mango, and he’s got some great analogies and ideas I might try to type out in the next few days.