Sometimes things just don’t turn out as planned. You ask all of the right questions and you come prepared, but we don’t have to live long in this game of Life to know that things don’t always work out. Though we cannot control when things don’t go as planned, we can control our response and our perspective. And as followers of Jesus, we might also grow in these situations when we ask ourselves, where is God in the midst of this unhinged plan?
Ryan and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary last week and we had planned a trip to the West Coast for a few days of KID FREE time together. We had kept the schedule pretty flexible but on the day of our anniversary, we packed a lot in. We have always enjoyed being outside and exploring nature and so this little beach town was a perfect place to do that. After breakfast, we went to a Waters sports center and rented two paddleboards. We have both paddleboarded several times before now so we knew how to balance on and navigate these boards. We got a map of the winding waterways and began the 2-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico. The ride to the beach was beautiful. It wasn’t too hot, we had the current helping push us along and the laminated map at the bottom of my paddleboard was a real resource in finding our way there fairly quickly. We arrived at the beach and swam to the sandbar, looked for shells, and had a snack. But after we had played in the water a little bit, we realized that as frugal people, we didn’t want to pay for another 2 hours of our board rental and so we began heading back.
Well, the next hour and a half did not go as planned. Remember the current and the mild heat, well we really were in for it on the return journey. Going back into the channel was a real struggle, because it was much hotter by then and more boats moved nearby which made balancing in their wake a bit more difficult. We easily found our way past the marina and to the entrance of the marshlands, but this is when things took a turn for the worse. For some reason, we struggled to find the right path back and made several wrong turns. We continued to fight against the current but we were already tired from the first hour of paddling. So we stopped at a small marshland island and held on to twigs while we consulted the map together. We decided on the right path of the three that were present and set our course. But then I did something really stupid. In trying to correct my board so that it was heading in the right direction, I put my right foot into the water to help turn off of the island. BIG MISTAKE! I stepped right onto an oyster bed and sliced part of my right big toe in half. So here I was nursing, a pretty “gnarly” cut, with blood pouring onto my rental board and now the worry of infection.
As if that wasn’t enough, we got lost two more times (did I mention we had a map) and nearly got run over by a guy and his daughter driving too fast through the channels (Little Boss captain, not cool!). If I had a snapshot of the moments that followed, you would all be praying for me. I was in pain, and tired and frustrated and really hungry and lost. I told my sweet husband, “I am NEVER going paddle-boarding EVER again!” Then I secretly wondered if Giant White Sharks could survive in shallow brackish water and because of the smell of my still profusely bleeding toe if one might be right behind me ready to finish me off…dramatic, I know. All of the feelings from the first half of the paddle-boarding trip were gone, and what was before me was pain and feelings of discouragement and quite honestly, I had built up our 10th wedding anniversary in such a way that I missed the grace in the chaos. For instance, I was so caught up in the disappointment, that I didn’t live into the thankfulness of when Ryan tried to tie my board to his so he could take the brunt of the burden, or when he lovingly cleaned the cut when we got back safely to shore, or when he yelled at the speeding boat out of sheer protection for my safety when he drove too close to me in that channel. But I didn’t remember all of that until I was back safely in an air-conditioned car recounting the events of the last few hours.
So what is it about those moments when things don’t go our way or when our plans are thwarted? Why do we lose such perspective and turn into the person we don’t want to be; a person that doesn’t represent Jesus. Control is a powerful thing and sometimes what we grieve most is the loss of control. I think about the four friends that tried to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus, only to be thwarted because of the crowd (Luke 5:17-26). Instead of growing discouraged or blaming the other friends in the cohort about how this wasn’t well thought-through, they performed some questionable roofing removing and lowered their friend to Jesus from the ceiling. Wow! I want friends like that! Destruction of private property aside, when things were out of control, and their plans did not come to fruition, they kept going because they had a goal in mind.
I invite you today to think about a time in your life where your plans were thwarted and changed and when life was out of your control. How did you act then? What would you have changed about that perspective if you could? And most importantly where was God in that change and what did you learn about God’s love for you even when things happened differently than you had wanted them to.