by Jennie Heideman
I recently showed up too early to meet a friend for coffee. I thought we were supposed to meet at 10:00 AM, but when I got to the coffee shop and my usually prompt friend wasn’t there, I looked through my text messages and realized that I was 30 minutes early.
My first reaction was to panic. I had so much to do that day and felt I couldn’t spare the extra 30 minutes. In fact, I had considered canceling on my friend because of my already too-tight schedule. But, I held off because she seemed like she really needed some advice about her work, and I thought I could get through the meeting in 30 minutes. However, being 30 minutes early seriously threw me off my schedule, and I was beginning to stress!
To give you a picture of my day: I had to pack for a weekend trip we were leaving for in five hours. I also had to complete two writing pieces due that day. Not to mention, I still needed to purchase gifts for two events that were happening that weekend, pick my kids up from school, and clean my apartment (I cannot leave my apartment dirty when I leave for the weekend). And, did I mention that I only had five hours to complete all of these activities?!?
Cue increased heart rate and shortness of breath.
My first thought after this initial panic attack was, “No problem, I have some work I am sure I can do on my phone. All I need to do is “clock in” on the app for my work, and I will be good to go.” But my app wouldn’t connect to the internet! At first, I began to get frustrated and irrationally upset with my friend. Then, it hit me.
If my belief that God ordains my days is true, maybe this was purposeful. Maybe there is a reason I mistook the time I was supposed to meet my friend. Maybe God had something for me in this moment.
I had been rushing around a lot—quickly reading through my Bible in the morning, sprinting through my prayers. In fact, my quiet time had become just another part of my ever-growing checklist. I actually couldn’t remember the last time I just sat and prayed, giving God my thoughts and worries. Maybe God had ordained this meeting for just the two of us.
As I sat there with a phone that wouldn’t connect to the internet, I finally submitted, “Okay, God. I’m here. What do you have for me?”
I spent the remaining 15 minutes—since the first 15 were spent panicking—just praying. I prayed for the friend I was about to meet. I prayed for my trip and my kids. Then, I began praying for myself. I asked that God would align my days with His pace. I thanked Him for His sovereignty. And I praised Him for turning the coffee shop I sat in into a green pasture, where He made me lie down.
In the end, I didn’t get everything I needed to get done that day. It turned out my friend was going through a lot more than I realized and needed more time. After all, people aren’t checklists, and I am thankful that God prepared my heart before she walked through the door. My apartment also didn’t get perfectly cleaned, and the gifts I bought were less than spectacular. But, for the rest of the day, I felt in line with God’s plans for me. My kids got picked up from school, I thoughtfully completed my writing assignments, and I engaged with my husband and kids as we drove across the state of Washington for our weekend get-away.
The truth is we serve a gentle God, who promises His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). I was the one putting pressure on myself. I was the one creating the checklists. I was the one who demanded that my apartment be spotless before we left. That wasn’t God, or my husband, or anyone else. It was me. But when God forced me to pause for 15 minutes that Friday afternoon, it changed my entire perspective. I stopped forcing my way and began asking God what He had for me that day.
Perhaps you can identify with some of what I am saying. Perhaps you lay out expectations for your day and then thrash against the boundaries God sets for you when things don’t go the way you planned. But remember, our God is gentle and His timing is perfect.
If this is you today—if your best-laid plans are not being realized and you are frustrated to the brim—ask yourself, could God have something else for you today? Could His plans be different than yours?
Also, take a moment to read through the 23rd Psalm. As you read, let the words truly sink in. He makes you lie down (how is He making you lie down today?); He guides you along the right paths (how is He directing your paths today?); He is with you (how has He made His presence known today?).
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Now, go into the rest of your day aware of His presence, knowing He orchestrates your path. All you need to do is lean into Him and follow His plans.