Although my Bible reading this morning included passages from several books, I was immediately struck by a recurrent theme: timing. Proverbs tells us that our plans mean nothing because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Ecclesiastes assures us that there is a time for everything. And Matthew reminds us that although we know not when the Lord will return, we should be found doing his work when he does; we can’t put off charity and service until a more convenient time.
We often think we know the best times for the major events of our lives: education, marriage, children, employment, retirement. We have our life planned out and we feel great disappointment if those plans don’t work out. Some people change and adapt and happily embrace their new lives. Others get stuck in the quagmire of regrets and never find joy. Proverbs 19 tells us that our own foolish actions are most often the cause of our demise, and yet we quickly blame God for everything that happens. I often think back to the first time I went to college in 1968. Had I been able to complete my education at that time I would have pursued a career teaching high school English. Would I have been as content with that choice as I have been in early education? I doubt it and I’m grateful that God changed a series of tragic events into a new and better path for me. I had to wait years and years for the opportunity to return to school, but when I did the timing was perfect and my new career was a much better application of my talents and experiences.
When I reflect back on many of the events of my life I realize that the timing of them was essential and most assuredly miraculous. If I had attempted the same goal or experienced the same event at a different stage of life the results would have been totally different! We talk about change, but we don’t always realize how much WE change. My younger self did some things that this old woman wouldn’t dream of doing. And this wise older woman does some things that her younger self would not have had the confidence or experience to attempt.
At this time of year it’s customary to make plans for a New Year of growth and change, health and happiness, progress and improvement. But some of those goals and expectations begin with the assumption that most things in our lives will stay the same and afford us a foundation of safety and security. We know in our heart of hearts that is not so. This has already been a holiday season of loss and change for many of my friends and family members. Loved ones are gone or disabled. Relationships have changed or ended. Expectations were not met. Goals were not reached. Hopes and dreams were not realized. So they face the New Year with changes and challenges not of their own choosing. The only way for them, and for the rest of us, to plan ahead is to trust the reassurances of Paul that God is in control and working in our favor, because He loves us and wants what is best for us.
Time stretches ahead of us like a new canvas, ready to be painted…just remember who holds the brush.