Dear long term planner,
Life has been a breeze so far. Recent college grad, engaged, life has fallen into place smoothly. You have been blessed with strong women surrounding you; all care deeply for you and mentor you. Much of what they have said has been recorded for a future day, it doesn’t seem to apply now. To date, you cannot recall a prayer request that wasn’t answered quickly. You have had a front row seat watching others struggle, but in the back of your head you assume it was because they needed disciplining.
What you don’t know yet is that life is going to get hard. Soon you and your new husband will make major decisions regarding career changes, and your two income household where living in the suburbs of Chicago is easy will be a distant memory. As a young couple, you will eagerly say yes to the call of ministry in the form of your husband coaching football in a tiny town in southern IL. Your obedience will be quick and when the move is announced several older and wiser people will earnestly warn you both of the challenges that lay ahead on this path.
You will only half listen to the wisdom being poured over you, and you will find yourself a few months later regretting that. It will be the first in a long list of regrets attached to your move to southern Illinois, and it won’t even be the biggest one.
Right now you dreamily talk about your future saying you hunger to stay in God’s will, striving to have actions that match your words. You desire being obedient, and you do your best to understand what that means, but unfortunately, for you, obedience will be learned in the midst of life, not by reading about it. Realizing obedience rarely means an easier life will hurt. The plans you have to be married 5 years before babies come, to have all your collective student loans paid off, well, that plan won’t happen….but you will be ok.
Saying yes to Southern IL will come easy because the plan is to move several times, working at multiple colleges because that’s what young coaches do. The reality will be that you will spend 10 years watching your husband climb through the coaching ranks living in the same town you were warned about so many years ago. Those warning will become a reality. You will fight feelings on loneliness and inadequacy daily…but you will be ok.
You will have hard pregnancies, the second life threatening. You will neither decide when you want to start your family nor when to stop adding to it. God will decide both for you, and it will hurt….but you will be ok.
Your body will begin to fail you. Hypothyroidism will consume way more of your late 20’s and early 30’s then you will initially realize. You will struggle with your weight for the entire decade you live in southern IL. It will take a move to Virginia to find a doctor who can give you the right medicine to begin to heal you. With that new doctor’s help, you will begin to feel functional again and you will feel better, then ok.
By the time you hit your mid 30’s, you will realize that life has not turned out at all like you planned. You will come to a point where you are deeply hurting and overwhelmed. You will question everything about your relationship with God. This wilderness will be the hardest year of your life to date, and it will take multiple people and many months to climb out of the pit of despair you will find yourself in. You will believe that life will never be ok again.
But you know what? You will get through your wilderness season and, as you push forward, you will lean on the past. These times you are in now–where you are surrounded by amazing women, given wise, essential advice–these will be the words you fall back on. The experiences of the women you have welcomed into your life will remind you that God does not abandon his sheep. The disciplines you develop now because of the accountability you have will be the disciplines that propel you forward through the wilderness.
As you leave the desert behind God will open your eyes and heart in new, amazing ways. As you learn to stop planning for God He will reveal what obedience looks like for you, and it will be exciting and humbling.
The best part? The dreams you have right now that you push away, feeling they can’t happen? God planted those dreams and they will come true, even though you never planned them out.
Beth Walker is a football coach’s wife and mom of two energetic boys. Blogging over at Lessons from the Sideline, Beth has been striving to find her own voice through pursuing Jesus, personal life reflection and her ministry encouraging college women to grow in their own relationships with God.