It’s hard to find a balance between making our own plans and waiting for the Lord to arrange things. I tend to feel lazy while waiting, and pushy when pressing on with my own plans. James warned us against being too confident in those plans.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
The human urge to plan will never let up; we are, after all, created to reflect God’s attributes, one of which is to plan. Our problem is more often about using our godly attributes without God. Balance comes when our plans are surrendered to God’s veto. So perhaps the proverb captures the balance: The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9).
I am learning to pray for my future as if I am window shopping with God in a mall in the early morning. We wander the hallways scanning the wares through store windows while panting mall-walkers pass by. I cannot buy anything yet; the stores are still shut. I press my nose to the plate glass, eyes wide with longing for what’s inside.
“I love X city, Y state, or Z country; it would be great to move there. I think it would be fruitful.”
“I long for my relationship with him or her to deepen. We would be such a blessing for each other.”
“I really want to use my gifts and experience for You. That ministry or job opportunity looks just right.”
Window shopping with God is bonding time. It’s the time to chatter enthusiastically to Him about what we see and want. I often have some idea of what might be “in store” for me. But it’s also the time to ask Him, “Tell me, Father, about each of these things and how, or if, they fit in our walk together.” Our childlike excitement delights the Father; but He wisely broadens our perspective and deepens our understanding. As we gaze through the windows together, hand in hand, our talk touches on how each item might change my life. What rearrangements will be needed? We can go back and forth on practicalities, challenges, and whether a glittering treasure might actually conflict with God’s ways. Am I seeing the possible outcomes clearly? It’s easy to become fixated on what’s right under our noses but the tug of one thing is a pull away from another. I might have to tear myself away from items that captivate me in order to see the otherwise unimpressive jewel that the Father is indicating. And if I feel my hand slipping out of His, perhaps He’s avoiding a store that He would never ever lead me into. Sometimes window shopping lasts months.
By the time the store doors open my longings might have changed. By then it is the door the Father leads me through and the item He chooses that matters. And I am better prepared to steward it and to stay focused on Him while I have it in my hands. I’m better prepared to finally release it, later on, for another new responsibility.