Lessons From a Life in Pencil
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Prov. 19:21)
The days between Christmas and New Years are a mix of reflection on the past and plans for the future. And while I am not one for resolutions, I do love this week to dream about what the months ahead will bring. Last year I set reasonable goals, chose books I wanted to read, and prayed through where my time would be best invested. All good things.
Except 2020 happened. And July.
My husband, Jim, and I planned an anniversary trip to Banff National Park. Seeing the beauty of the majestic Canadian Rockies mirrored in the crystal blue waters of Lake Louise has been a lifelong dream. We were finalizing details when the pandemic hit, stopping everything in its tracks. As the date drew closer, we decided to stay local, do some things we enjoy, and have dinner at a favorite Gulfside restaurant.
Again our plans would change.
We woke that anniversary morning to urgent texts. Jim’s dad had arecent surgery, and his health deteriorated quickly. The day was spent not on a quiet beach, but in the chaotic lobby of a COVID-restricted hospital. Suddenly, there were decisions to make. Papers to sign. Medical equipment to be delivered. All the hospice things.
Years before, a godly mentor taught me truth from Proverbs 19:21. Her illustration of what my plans and God’s purpose might look like came flooding back.
Beth, your days should be lived in pencil. God may choose to erase plans we see as good. But what he rewrites with his pen will have holy purpose.
Scripture is rich with references on the value of plans and goals (Prov. 15:22 and 24:27, Luke 14:28). With proper motivation and a good life strategy, the Gospel can be spread and great Kingdom work accomplished. But when we hold too tightly to desires and are wise in our own eyes, we can miss the moments of his sovereign and sacred work.
Caring for someone who is terminally ill is a hard but holy call. God grew humility in emptying catheters and patience in tedious pill crushing. He deepened gratitude through every chicken casserole baked and prayer lifted on our behalf. The compassion of those who experience grief before us and whose testimonies are weaved through 2 Corinthians 1:3–7 came alive. God, in his all-encompassing love, was present in every detail.
And in those final moments when my father-in-law inhaled on earth and exhaled in heaven, we felt the indescribable presence of God. A powerful stillness and comfort blanketed the room. Through a grief we would have never chosen on our own, God gave us a knowledge of himself that would carry us through the hard days ahead. His promises hold firm. Always.
My 2021 planner is already marked with upcoming appointments and personal goals. I know the year ahead will have sweet surprises and challenging times, but the Lord has not revealed the details each day will hold. What I do know is this: whether the plan is one of pencil or pen, his glory will be revealed. And I pray to walk forward in obedience.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)