My mum has one particular recipe book that is prized above all others. It is the book in which she has collected family recipes passed down over the years, carefully hand-written by loved ones, some of whom are now no longer with us. The recipe book is older than I am and is practically dripping in sentimental value.
When I was about 8, my mum mistakenly thought I was mature enough to contribute to the revered book of kitchen magic. She had found a recipe she wanted to store away for later and asked me to copy it into the book. Needless to say, my little 8 year old brain was overwhelmed with the honour and I vowed to make it the best looking recipe in the entire book.
So my trusting Mother picked out a page, which just happened to be on the reverse side of a recipe recorded by my Mum's best friend who died of a brain tumour when I was 6. I couldn't afford to make a mistake, because there was no way I could rip out the page and start again. She gave me a pen—a pen! Oh the responsibility!—and I respectfully began to write. This was the recipe book big leagues, and I knew it was my time to shine.
At this point I would love to say that my recipe was a feat of calligraphy and modern art, inspiring the chef-of-the-day to change the world with their culinary triumphs. Unfortunately it looks like a monkey wrote it with his monkey-eyes closed, using only his monkey-butt. I don't know what I was thinking, but the entire recipe ended up being one big mess of scribble.
I got there in the end... Kind of. As long as you're prepared to spend a good 10 minutes interpreting my chicken scratch, the important stuff is all there. It's not pretty, but I got the message across. But boy-oh-boy did I make a horrible mess of it.
I often wonder about God's 'plan for me.' In church I so often get reminded that God has something for me that is "so great I can't even imagine it." What does this actually mean?
It makes me wonder what our definition of great is. Do they mean I will be successful and happy? Do they mean I will help change people's lives? Do they mean I will get married and live happily ever after? Or is it just our way of saying we don't really know, but we live in hope?
I like the idea of God having a plan for my life because it means there is one right path for me. It also means I don't have to take responsibility for my decisions - I just have to follow. The thing is in life it's just not that simple. We don't get a road map. We don't get a tap on the shoulder telling us what direction we need to go in at every turn.
I find it hard to get my head around what is my decision and what is God's. At what point do I meet God—when does He take over? Should I be constantly praying about every little thing, or does God give me more responsibility than that? Is this plan a big overarching idea, or are there specific milestones I need to hit? Does God's plan include my career, my friends, my future husband, my ministry, my breakfast? Or is it more of an underlying mission that encompasses all of those things?
Which leads me to my next question: does God's plan ever change? If I go down the wrong path, does the plan reset? What if God wants me to marry someone and I screw it up and he marries someone else? What happens then? Does God adapt the plan to include a different partner accompanying me on the journey? Or is that it, the plan is screwed, my life is all wrong and I will die alone with 20 cats.
Or, even scarier, did God already know I was going to fail? Was that part of the plan too? In which case why do I even bother trying? (But that's a whole different issue...)
In case you haven't noticed, I may have slight over-thinking tendencies…
I often hear the message—whether explicit or not—that I can be who I want to be and that no calling is better than the other, while not-so-subtly hinting that being a penniless missionary or full-time evangelist is, in fact, the best calling. I wish it were that simple. It would be so much easier if I could just fit into that mould. At least then I would feel like I was doing God's work, regardless of whether it was part of the 'plan'.
I like to get things right, but there are so many variables that sometimes I get too scared to dream. Because what if it's not the right dream? Already the number of twists and turns my life has taken would be enough to give anyone whiplash, and I have a horrible feeling that I ain't seen nothing yet.
The problem is I use this as an excuse to stand still. I can't see my next step clearly, so I wait and hope that something will smack me in the face. I lower my expectations, subconsciously hoping that God will do the work for me.
I don't have this whole 'plan' thing sorted, but I suspect it is something like that recipe. There's this whole book that I've been invited to be a part of. I've been given my page, but it's my pen, my handwriting and my responsibility to present it. Just because I don't always know 100% doesn't mean I get to run away from making decisions. I may not have all the details of the 'plan' but I have this feeling that God gave me life so that I could actually, well, live it.
One day, years from now I'm going to be chilling with my 20 cats, leaning on my Zimmer frame having a good old-fashioned LOL about how my life turned out. I may make a horrible mess of it, but if the first 24 years are anything to go by my finished page is going to be an interesting read.
In the meantime, I might try using a pencil. You know, just in case.
First published October 17, 2013
Casey Murray works in marketing for a company that sells nail guns, where she eats large amounts of chocolate and wears pretty dresses in an attempt to avoid becoming 'one of the boys.' In her spare time she likes having inappropriate conversations with friends and writes to try and make sense of it all.
Casey Murray's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/casey-murray.html