By: Sarah Cates
Yesterday was my 29th birthday. I’m almost 30, which is awesome, but thinking about that… man, have I ever realized that I am not where I expected to be as I enter my 30s. Perhaps some of you feel the same way as you hit this milestone, or your 40th, or your 50th, or your retirement years.
Let’s travel back to 22 year old me. My plan was to find some way to get onto the African continent working for a non-profit or as a volunteer, or really anything, for at least a year or two before coming back to the States and finding a “real job” and settling down. I know. Bask in the glory of that well-thought out, detailed plan. Then I met Chris and, ironically, while I was in Uganda on a short-term missions trip, I realized that I was going to marry him and stay in the States. And that was the beginning of the revolution of my adolescent dreams. No living in Africa for a few years by myself. No jetsetting around the world. No writing novels in between the hours of my 9-5. God’s plan for me was a quiet married life in DC, figuring out what it meant to be a wife, and - much sooner than we planned - mother.
Reality has a way of taking your biggest dreams, putting them into one of those vacuum sealed, space-saving storage bags, and tucking them in the attic of your heart. That sounds horrible doesn’t it? But it doesn’t scare me anymore. Because I know that the God of my reality is still the God of that little attic, and He sees it, even when I feel like everything in it has been lost. Proverbs 16:9 says: “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” There is no greater contentment or comfort than knowing that I am at the center of God’s will for me. Even if that will isn’t exactly what I would have chosen for myself, knowing that it is His releases all of my anxiety.
I don’t know what God plans to do with my dreams in those vacuum sealed bags. But He gives me a sweet promise in Psalm 37:4 - “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This is not a guarantee that He will pull those dreams out of storage and give them back. It gives me my assignment for now - learn to delight in Him! It is a beautiful promise that as I do that, He will be faithful to fulfill the desires of my changed heart. Maybe some of those dreams will stay in the attic. But like my arts and crafts projects from second grade… maybe that’s where they belong.
To anyone who is past the 30 year milestone and who has stuck with this post for this long, may I encourage you - please pour into those people who are younger than you. Tell them about the dreams you had when you were 20 that you saw come to fruition at 50. Show them in real-time the proof of God’s faithfulness to know us and love us well. And beyond that, His faithfulness to change us and make us new and give us better desires than our 20 year old self could come up with.
I don’t understand exactly why I have been given the life I have been given. It is a blessed, wonderful, beautiful life. I do not deserve it. It is also a life so drastically different from what I would have chosen for myself, and so drastically different from anyone else’s. I have different troubles and different successes. But, “If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshipped” (Evelyn Underhill). I want a big God. I want a God with mysterious, wondrous, creative plans. I do not want a God who takes direction from me, who follows my plans. My goodness, what a mess I would be in if I had that type of god. Thank goodness I don’t.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” -Jeremiah 29:11