Over the last few years, on at least two different occasions, I have declared I would “never” do something or that something “is not happening.” Let me clarify—I was not speaking about things that were sinful or harmful to myself or others. I was speaking about things that were not in my plan or were not included in how I saw my life going.
You probably know where this is headed.
Don’t make those statements. We all know the joke—if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. I don’t think it’s wrong to make plans, of course. I have seen too many people wait their lives away and never act or move because they’re waiting for God to tell them what to do.
He works with us. He likes to hear our plans. He wants to know our desires and our dreams. But then we have to leave some room for Him. As soon as we declare that we are never going to do something—because it’s not what we have planned—we have possibly shut the door to what He wants to do in our lives.
I was flipping through social media the other day and came across someone who noted that the couple who taught them NFP wasn’t “selling” the process well because they had several kids. They assumed this was a sign that NFP “didn’t work.” That’s a whole other topic of conversation, but I want to focus on something they said in their comment. They noted that the instructors had “more kids than we wanted.”
Assuming that this person is an engaged or newly married person, I stopped to think about that statement. Sure, you may have in your mind how big or small your future family will be. But you are just beginning this adventure of family life. How do you know in ten or even five years how many children you “want”? Perhaps the couple teaching NFP didn’t get married thinking they wanted seven children. Maybe that changed when their family began growing.
I commented, “Remember, children and marriage aren’t always about a tidy plan you make when you’re engaged. Over the years, we should be asking what God wants for our marriage too. As a youngest child, what if perhaps my parents didn’t plan to have as many children as they did. But boy am I grateful they remained open to changing their plans!” I added a : ) for good measure.
Naturally, as a single childless woman, I’m an expert on marriage and children.
But joking aside, after posting that comment, I stopped to think about my life. How often have I made plans for the future—or declared what was not in the plan—only to realize I wasn’t being open to what God wanted for that future? Again, it’s not a matter of not planning. He wants us to dream. He also wants us to be good stewards of our time and our gifts, and to use the brain He gave us to make plans about how to use that time and those gifts. We aren’t supposed to sit around and wait for a three-ring binder to arrive in the mail that maps out the next few years of our lives.
But we must leave room for the Holy Spirit. We must ultimately be open to what He wants to do with us. His plan won’t come in the mail, but it will come through our family, friends, and coworkers. It’ll be that family member that needs us, that friend who challenges us, or that boss that asks something of us. It’ll be that opportunity that is dropped in our lap, or that moment that changes our heart about something. It’ll be that idea that comes in prayer or that word that we receive out of the blue. Do we have the courage to change our plans when we realize God might want something different from us?
St. Josemaria Escriva said, “Get rid of those proud thoughts: you are but the brush in the hand of the artist. And nothing more. Tell me: of what use is a brush, if it won’t let the painter do his work?” (The Way, 612)
Are we leaving room in our plans for the Holy Spirit to use us as His instruments? Because ultimately, whatever we do in this life… that is all that matters. All our grand plans or dreams, all our hopes and desires of our heart… all that matters in the end is that we served God and neighbor. How does God want to work through us today?