This morning my mind was running circuits and trailing tangents as it usually does when I’m trying to wake up amidst the shower steam. Basically I go between praying and personal thoughts for my day. Sometimes I’ll go over a previous event, as if thinking it through amongst honestly muttered prayers will lend needed clarity to my thoughts. One of the things that ran through my mind this morning was the previous afternoon in an orientation class. At one point the presenter had asked us a question.
He had questioned, “what is your goal for yourself in the next five years?”
I know, this is a common question. We’re taught throughout life that for successful living we need to have a 5-year plan. I get that. We’re encouraged to make goals, and then to chase them. We’re instructed to make a plan, plot out the course to achieving it, and to let nothing stop you in that pursuit.
Somewhere between mentally revisiting that round table discussion and washing my face, I found myself repeating the 23rd Psalm. This was one of the scriptures that I frequently prayed over myself and my day before going to work, but this morning I paused close to the beginning. I had been stopped in my tracks by the words “you lead me beside still waters,” and in that moment of silent reflection I felt the Lord say something to me.
It’s ok if all you want is to be still.
I needed that encouragement. You see, yesterday I had very boldly and honestly given my lack of planning for the next five years. I mean, I was the first to speak, but as the same question was answered all around the table, I realized mine was an anomaly. Everyone had a plan, laid out, goal-oriented, with their professional development in mind. Most wanted to further their education, moving to the next step in being a better them. And that was great. It just wasn’t where I was at currently. It’s not that I wasn’t constantly learning and growing; I definitely am. It’s simply that I felt peace with where I was at the moment, and I had no stringent requirement of myself to plan out my next steps.
At the time I had said, “I’m 42 years old. I’ve been in nursing for twenty years, and I’m at a place in my life right now where I’m completely dependent on the Lord. I go where He leads me. He led me here, and I feel like He wants me to stay here. Will I be here in a year? I have no idea. I take each day as it comes, and I trust the Lord for each one.”
You could have heard a pin drop. I’m sure, for many, my words sounded crazy, but I had also come to a place in life where that didn’t bother me either. It’s not that I found people who made plans to be lacking in faith. Not at all! In fact, I’m a planner by nature, and I think it’s prudent and wise. It’s just not the season I am in. For the past two years I have based where I worked and lived on the doors God opened and the ones He closed. To do that I had to completely surrender to the unknown. It wasn’t easy, but it strengthened my faith and walk with Christ in a way I could have never imagined. And just because I’ve taken a permanent, steady job, it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop following His lead.
I think that sometimes our continuous, perfectly laid out plans can distance us from God. I know, for me, planning my course gave me a sense of control, and that comforted me. What I’ve learned, though, is that perfectly laid out steps and a 5-year plan won’t bring me the contentment I desire or the success I need for a happy life. Self-improvement is good, but without working on the inside￼ too, even well-laid plans will fall flat.
As I thought over the previous discussion in the classroom, this morning in the shower, I think I had a moment where I questioned myself. When God calls you to be different, it’s hard not to feel a little weird. But when I felt the Lord impress to me the freedom to be in a season of stillness, it calmed my spirit. I thought back to something else from the previous day. In reading scripture I had been especially drawn to the familiar story in the Bible of Mary and her sister Martha. Martha ran around hurriedly making preparations, but Mary sat at the feet of Jesus enjoying His presence. I don’t think one sister is better than the other, but I do believe there are times in our life to be a Martha, yet also times to be a Mary. Jesus doesn’t require our sacrifice, but He does call us to relationship.
I happened to be in a season of life where my ability to be still positively impacted my relationship with the Lord. I had made many plans in my life, but currently I resided in a place where I desired Him to direct my steps. Some called my life “living by the seat of my pants,” but I preferred to consider it sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening intently as He taught.