Checking off the boxes

Our life is not our own, and we know this but deep down we fight against it. We want ownership of things. Our lower brain wants certainty. That is why we love lists and boxes to be checked off. Our brains get a dopamine hit when we check, tick, cross off. There is certainty in that plan. But if we are not careful, we do that with our lives too. Go to college- check, get married- check, dream job- check, have babies- check, dream house- check, etc.   

But what happens when you don’t get what you want or when you can’t check the box? For me it was graduate college, check, dream job, check, but kind of stopped there.  Babies, house, future, true happiness, was all dependent on the box get married. I was not checking that one off, and it felt uncertain. So, now what? How do we dream about the future and move forward when there was so much uncertainty about that box right there, marriage? And why was it so hard to check that box off? 

Each birthday and year that passed by was just a reminder that my future was becoming my present and time was “running out”. As my 30th birthday was approaching I could see all this tension because life was just not going as PLANNED. 

I love Jeremiah 29:11; I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and give you a future.  

When I think, He knows the plans for me, I feel secure. When I think, He will prosper me, I feel taken care of. And when I think, He gives me a future, I feel purposeful. 

Plans… seem so pretty, but can be really painful at the same time. To own something, to steward it well, we kind of need a plan. And plans feel certain. But what happens when the certain doesn’t happen?

We tend to make it mean something about us. We make it mean there is something wrong with us. We failed, or we didn’t make it happen. We aren’t pretty enough for marriage. Or, we are too much for guys. Or my personal favorite… I made it mean, I was too independent. But what if we look at the plan as well, this is a part of the plan. See, God tells us that your life is mine, but He doesn’t give us a step by step layout of the how. He leaves that a mystery. What we are certain of is; we are born and we die. Everything else is well uncertain…. That makes me feel good! But how do we steward our life than, with the little certain knowledge that we do have?  We look at it through the eyes of God. He has this for me for a reason. He is doing something in the midst of this unknown for me. 

I recently heard a sermon on this passage by Tim Keller. He shared the context of Jeremiah 29 and how Jeremiah was actually speaking to those that were in exile. The people that were a part of the first group of exiles taken from Jerusalem to Babylon were the tradesmen or experts in their field, and Daniel was a part of this group. Now, before he tells them that God knows the plans for them, he goes on to give them some directions about how they should be living in exile. He says, “Build houses, plant gardens, get married, have kids, and THRIVE.” He was telling those in exile; listen up…. Don’t just wait it out… don’t just try and survive this.  Go and make the most of this time in your life, even when it isn’t going the way you had planned it. When I heard this, I thought man single women need to know these verses context. You may think that this is your exile. Singleness; the place you never thought you would be, but God is saying, “Do this season well, thrive” And the reason He is saying that is because verse 11. I know the plans I have. It may seem like it is not working out, but be certain of this. I AM in control of this ALL.

It is good to know that your brain wants certainty, because you can see why this uncertainty causes it problems. And since everyone around you seems to be doing the same things like getting married and then having kids, it is easier to say this is the way it should go and my life is not going the way everyone else’s does.  But what if you looked at it with a totally different perspective? My life is NOT mine. I am blessed with the privilege to steward MY story. The story unfolding around me is fill in the blank. Proverbs 16:9 says, We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it. He wants us to plan and dream and go for the Gold! He wants us to make lists and check them off, but when they don’t get checked off. Don’t make it mean something bad about you, make it mean something amazing about God. What does He want for you?  What does He have for you? It doesn’t mean stop the planning, go right on with the planning. Just know that His plan is the best. The unchecked box doesn’t have to feel painful. Maybe you were meant to see 30 and the marriage box not be checked, it is OK. Something I have learned is, that my plans seem great, but HIS blow my mind!  

Planning with open hands right along with you,