Our children don't always know, from graduation day* forward, exactly what they are meant to do, or to be. The world acts as if they should know ("I will graduate from high school, go to the college of my choice, then go to work as a ___________.") But most of them don't know. When I look back at what most of my friends in high school and college, including me, thought we would do with our lives, I realize that we didn't have a clue.
Moving forward, one shaky step at a time and trusting that all will be well is a lesson I've learned and relearned over many years. And it's a lesson I've tried to pass on to my daughters (though, like most lessons, it's also one they'll have to learn for themselves.) I had no idea, when I was a teen or a young adult, that I'd end up where I am.
When I was a young atheist, working in the world of business (does that sound like the title of a bad sitcom? "Young Atheists in Business!") I already knew that God liked dashing plans. I didn't call Him "God" back then. I called Him "fate" or "destiny" or "the forces at work in the universe" or "luck" or "karma" or "my crummy life."
I'd never planned to work in the business world and yet that's where I'd ended up. I hadn't planned to go to college, either, until my senior year of high school, but since I didn't know what else to do, and I wanted to be an actress, I decided to major in theater. Then I added an English major and a philosophy minor. I maintained a healthy distance from the business department (no offense to you, Business People, it just wasn't my thing.)
So, how did a Theater-English-Philosophy person end up donning matchy-matchy suits, getting a "Manager" title, traveling to Manhattan to visit clients, all the while feeling that she was an imposter who was good at playing dress-up?
Umm, I had to eat. And pay bills. And the acting jobs in Omaha, Nebraska weren't exactly rolling in. Neither were the novel-writing or philosophizing jobs. The fact that I preferred not to starve forced me to take the first job that came along. And because I had nothing better to do than work hard (and my obsessive-compulsive tendencies made me ultra-organized in the workplace), I got promoted and ended up on those business trips, marveling at things like seeing the Waldorf-Astoria from the inside.
While I was working and getting promoted and going on business trips, one day I was asked by a colleague, "What's your five-year plan?"
I almost spat coffee all over my desk because the question sent me into a fit of laughter.
"My five-year plan?" I asked, recovering from the near-choking. "What do you mean?"
"I mean," she said, "where do you see yourself in five years? Do you plan on working on an MBA? Do you still want to be here?"
Still laughing, I said, "I don't even know where I see myself next week. I certainly didn't plan to be doing this with my life. I can't imagine knowing where I'll be five years from now." And, because I regularly quoted lines from Casablanca, I added, "I never make plans that far ahead."
In a way, I still live by Rick Blaine's philosophy. When my colleague asked me where I'd be in five years, I would never have guessed that the answer would be, "In a small town, living the life of a newly baptized Christian." Or, that five years after that, my answer would be, "I'm Catholic."
Five years after that? "I'm homeschooling now. And -- oh, get this! -- my husband is now Catholic, too."
Nope. Wouldn't have guessed a bit of that.
I can make all the plans my organized heart desires, but God (as I now call Him) can force me into flexibility at a moment's notice.
St. Therese of Lisieux wanted to be a missionary, evangelizing the whole world. Instead, she was given a short, hidden life, full of mundane little tasks in the convent, tasks she learned to do with great love. And now, this Doctor of the Church is evangelizing the whole world through her intercession from heaven. It wasn't the way she planned it, though, was it?
We don't have a clue, do we? God is too big, too cunning, too crafty for us to outguess Him, dodge Him, or stay one step ahead of Him. Oh, sure, occasionally He lets us coast, thinking we're in control, but it's usually a set-up, because suddenly - bam! "Never saw that one coming."
Motherhood was like that for me. I didn't predict it, plan on how it would make me feel, and I certainly didn't know that I would one day say, "This is what I was meant to do."
Sometimes I picture God the Father nudging Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and saying, "Look! Aren't they cute, those little people We made? They try so hard to use all the faculties We gave them. Well, bless their unsuspecting little hearts. And prudence! Hey, they're actually trying to put it to use. Now, that's something a Father can be proud of. Huh. Sure will be hard to crush them when this plan falls apart [much nodding of Divine Heads at this] but, oh, well ... A God's gotta do what a God's gotta do, eh?"
And then, the Trinity often shares a good laugh at my expense, and turns me into things like a Catholic, a mother....
But, that's okay. That divine laugh usually shakes me to the core and then somehow rebuilds me from the inside out. Because that's what God is all about. Making me new.
"Behold, I make all things new." ~~ Revelation 21:5
And that includes my plans.
So, what's my latest five year plan?
To just keep letting God to make me new. Because I like surprises.
*I always feel bad for high school graduates. Everyone is asking, "So what's next? What are your plans? What do you want to do/be/become?" And most of them, if they were honest, would like to scream in response, "I have no idea what I'm doing! Leave me alone until the future reveals itself!" Hang in there, graduates. Get used to surprises.