In January, we began to periodically feature posts submitted by readers of the FastPray blog. It’s encouraging to know there is a whole community of Jesus followers fasting and praying on Mondays.
We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.
Plan to be Surprised. This was the theme of the 2007 movie Dan in Real Life. The movie documents how the main character Dan, played by Steve Carell, deals with the twists and turns of life interrupting his plans. In one of his most serious roles to date, Carell nails the overly anxious and protective parent who is closed off to new possibilities for himself. But the movie concludes with a short monologue about life and expectations and Carell tells the audience “Instead of asking our young people, ‘What are your plans? What do you plan to do with your life?’, maybe we should tell them this: ‘Plan to be surprised.’”
In thinking about my own life, especially in the area of dating and unintentional singleness, I wish I would have learned this much sooner. The past ten years have been filled with anxiety, trying to fit the square peg into the round hole and then being frustrated with God that it’s not working. All in all, I struggled (let’s be honest, this should be present tense too) with expectations. When I went away to a small Christian college, I expected God to introduce me to a nice Christian man who would marry me a year after graduating. When that didn’t happen, I was confused and angry with God and at a logistical loss of what to do with my life. Why? Because I had a plan in mind that went totally awry. I wasn’t flexible and open to His plan. I wasn’t planning for surprise.
Granted, there are some expectations in the dating realm that we should hold onto, basic values such as shared faith, mutual respect, and compatibility. But outside of the core areas, are we too inflexible and clinging to our expectations? Are we leaving enough room for God to move and work, and surprise us along the way? Sure your first choice in the romance department may look like a 5’ 6” blond hair soccer player. But what if God has in mind a 6’ 3” dark haired nerd? Why do we pressure ourselves to be married by a certain age? What if a longer time of waiting deepened our reliance on God, making us stronger women of faith?
One of the consistent prayers on the Fast Pray blog that I love is for women to have soft hearts toward God and that we would be pliable toward His plans. As shown throughout Scripture, people have made many life plans that God has interjected and changed. But time and again, God’s plans are better and wiser for us than anything we could have devised. Scripture confirms this by saying: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8.28). I wonder what plans and dreams Mary had in mind for her marriage and family before the angel Gabriel delivered a message that changed her life and gave hope to ours.
Life may not look like we dreamed it. Our plans may fall by the wayside. But we have not been abandoned. We know His plans are good, though scary and different they may be. Let us approach His throne with soft hearts and open hands. Let us plan to be surprised.