Her comments caught me completely off guard. But she was so confident so sure of herself that I had to take her words seriously. A new member of my Pain Support Group, who joined our Zoom gathering for the first time, said something that has really stayed with me. “I think it’s impressive that you have been able to accept the life you are living instead of the one that you had planned.” Am I, I thought?
I have been delving into the Old Testament these past weeks using Father Mike Schmitz Bible in a Year podcast. I have to admit that I’m overwhelmed, in a good way, by how much I am enjoying it. I have always struggled with reading the Bible but felt like I wanted to give it another chance with this popular tool. The thing that has struck me the most is how relatable all of these Old Testament people are – I mean really regular folks. They come from imperfect families, struggle with life and often sin in ways which offend God and one another. What a relief! In addition, the God of the Old Testament is forgiving and loving in the face of those who seek him, follow him and embrace him – regardless of their imperfections.
One scripture passage that has truly stayed with me is the story of Jacob’s eleventh son Joseph. Without anger or resentment, this young man embraced the Plan B life that God had intended for him. Joseph was the apple of his father’s eye and his older brother’s hated him for it. These jealous men wanted to kill him but in the end decided to sell him as a slave. Joseph’s journey was not easy – he was a household slave in Egypt, away from his family and was then thrown into jail for something he didn’t do. In the end, God used Joseph’s gifts as a dream interpreter to raise him to the highest office in Egypt. Joseph served alongside Pharaoh and saved the entire land from famine, including his own family, who eventually came back to him. When Joseph saw his brothers again he did not rebuke them rather he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Gen 45:5)
I wondered if I were Joseph, would I be so forgiving? Joseph knew something important: God invites us to realize that He has a beautiful plan for our lives but it may not be the one that we think is correct. Oftentimes God’s plan will take us to places that we do not want to go. But like Joseph’s life, His plan will lead us to great things if we trust. I like to call this God’s Plan B. I find myself living a Plan B life and for awhile, I was not too happy about it. After my spine surgeries, countless minor procedures and doctor visits, I was miserable wondering why God had not fixed my back pain. It wasn’t until I accepted and embraced the life I was living that I realized all was well. While I did have to give up some things that I loved – my full time job, running, long travel, and more – I gained other things that I could never have imagined – a Board role for an amazing non-profit which supports homeless women – Dignity Matters, volunteer roles at my local food pantry & prison, more time with my wonderful family, reading great literature, writing, walking my dog and taking interesting courses to deepen my faith. It was only when I accepted God’s Plan B that I found the serenity and joy of every day life again. I had to be willing to trust God, not myself. I had to be willing to give up the life I thought I would live.
When my mom received her cancer diagnosis in 2016, it was not what she wanted. I can still see her face when she told me the results of her scans. But in the midst of her pain, Mom did not crumble. She embraced Plan B and lived the remaining 3 years of her life with joy and purpose. Of course she had days of despair – we all do. But she trusted in the God of love who wills the good of the other. She knew that she had nothing to fear. Neither do we. If you find yourself in the midst of an unwelcome change in life – embrace Plan B – God’s plan. Make it the best life you can by asking God to take the wheel. He will never steer you wrong.