I watched her sit on my loveseat, delicately handling her cup of coffee with her trademark breezy style. “Ya know, Mel. I was thinking the other day,” she said. “I’m thirty-one years old now. No family of my own, no house, no real career that I’m passionate about...” she trailed off.
I stopped whatever fight I was breaking up between the girlies at the time and looked at her. I’ll admit, I was kind of surprised to find that her statement was more of an observation, rather than a lament or complaint.
“Yeah, that’s true,” I responded. “What about it?” I asked next. Having been friends since we were knee-high to a grasshopper and pretty much always in the same vein when it came to thinking deeply about things, there really wasn’t any question that was off-limits.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I guess I was just looking at you with your kids and your marriage and your house and just noticing how different my life is. I’m currently living with my parents, doing wedding photography as my main source of income, and working at a restaurant part-time to try to pay off debt. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just not at all where I’d imagined I’d be at this point in my life.”
I thought about her statement for a moment. As close of friends as we are, I still wanted to choose my next words carefully. After all, she was right. Her life had taken some unexpected turns over the past several years, not all of which were what you would consider “good”. But yet here we still sat, in my living room, having another heart-to-heart conversation which had become a trademark of our friendship.
“Yes, I can imagine it is quite different than what you imagined. But to be honest with you, so is mine,” I started cautiously. “Don’t get me wrong, I am truly blessed – no doubt about it. I love these two little girls more than I ever thought I could love my kids. I have an amazing husband and a house that I can call my own. It truly is wonderful. But it’s not perfect. And even though you may think that I’ve got it all figured out and never yearn for something different, it’s far from the truth. You, at this moment in your life, have possibly the most freedom you will ever have: nothing tying you down, no mortgage payment looming over your head which would prohibit you from making some risky career move, no diapers to change.”
Our conversation rolled on, as I continued to take one child to the potty, then the next, refill sippy cups, settle arguments, and push hair out of eyes. All the while, my dear friend sitting there, cozy on the couch, watching with admiration.
Once she left to run her errands (she had the rest of the day to herself!) and I had settled the girlies into their beds for that glorious afternoon nap, I got to thinking about what she had said and how our conversation had progressed. I was by no means complaining about my life and I hoped that it hadn’t come across that way. I love it – even the exhausting, crazy, rip-your-hair-out moments. But the point I was trying to make to this dear friend of mine was that there were some serious benefits not to be taken for granted that came along with her current situation. And more importantly, the observation that the more focused she became on what she didn’t have, the less she would be able to see the opportunities that she did.
As I wrote all of the February posts, having mostly to do with our love relationships, my mind often wandered to our readers whose lives may be void of that “special someone”. After all, in my first post in February (“A Suitable Helper”), I promised a post for those who may have felt alienated by it. As I thought of all of you, I remembered other girls during my high school years bitter about Valentine’s Day, hating the fact that it reminded them of their “single status”. It was as if that one thing missing in their lives made the rest of it not worth living at all.
The ugly truth is, no matter what your current situation may be – married or unmarried, with children or without, successful executive or starving artist – there come moments when we don’t feel so good about it. This isn’t where I planned on being, we say in exasperation. But you know what? This IS where God has planned you to be. Every event in your past -- good or bad -- has led you to the present day. You are where you are at this very point of your life because God has placed you there. And He has done so with purpose.
When you look at the Apostles, you see an array of personalities and broken lives. Some were hated tax collectors, some relatively “unsuccessful” fishermen (Matthew 4:18). Don’t you think that there were times, even when they were following Jesus, when they may have thought, “My life has come to this? I never thought I’d be here.” Or think of Elijah as he attempted to follow the will of God for his life and told God that he was "the only one left" (I Kings 18:22). Now that sounds lonely to me.
When we look back on the road our individual lives have taken, I would dare to guess that there is not one of us who can say it has gone exactly as we have thought it would. Sure, we plan as best we can (read more about Amber and her "five year" plan in her previous "Making Plans" post). But again, if we focus only on what we have lost, what we haven't yet done, or what we wish we had, we'll miss all that God has intended. Our lives have traveled down the road He paved long before we even set foot on this earth. For He says:
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. ~Proverbs 16:9
May we all find great comfort, knowing that the Maker of the Universe knows every detail of our lives and has "established our steps".
After all, no matter where we find ourselves, we can rest assured that we are exactly where He wants us to be.