My Five-Year Plan
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord (Isa 55:8).
I’ve never been more grateful for this truth than I have been in this season of life. It’s been a long season. Five years of change and turmoil that have been out of my control. I am a person that thrives on routine, rules, and control. You could say that I am type-A. It serves me well in my career as a speech-language pathologist where my practice is based on the evidence of research and my decisions are driven by data.
Five years ago, I was entering a season of life I could have never imagined. I was a newlywed and new college graduate who moved with my husband from Louisiana to Oklahoma. When my parents left us in Oklahoma with my terminally ill father-in-law and my husband’s family, I wept. In a restaurant. IHOP, to be exact. That was the very beginning of my undoing.
Four weeks later my father-in-law, Terry, died. It took the wind out of our sails. Four days later, the day after Terry’s service, we found out we were pregnant. Married for one year, living in a new state with my in-laws, grieving, and pregnant. Whew. We were excited, terrified, and sad. The next year was hard but good. We found a family of believers here at Crosstown who pointed us to Jesus when we were selfish, who challenged us to lean on community and not on ourselves. In retrospect, however, I was still so mad at God. I had plans—good, solid plans that were shattered. I lived that way for three years. I pretended that I was ok with how our plans changed, I held on to the truth, “God is great so I don’t have to be in control,” in one hand while I sought control over every minute detail of my life in the other.
My plans, and the front I put on every day, began to unravel even more in February 2016. We made plans to try for another baby that summer. Then we got pregnant. In February! I hyperventilated looking at that positive test. Once again, I was out of control. We had Claire in October 2016 and I went back to work eight weeks later. I was able to maintain control until late January. Then palpable anxiety started to grip me. I still had such a tight grip on my surroundings, until God, in His grace, opened my hands to let it go.
Growing up, I never knew much about mental health. Until that winter of 2016, I still held the very wrong assumption that people with mental health issues were mentally weak. I had mental fortitude; I was a strong one. I tried so many things to relieve the anxiety as it was building and tightening its grip on me. Relaxing baths with essential oils, deep breathing and mediation, and running. One Sunday I felt trapped and had to go for a run. I came to a sober realization that I was so far out of control when the thought entered my mind that I could run and not come back. Like leaving my husband and two precious girls would solve my problems. That’s when the intrusive thoughts really took hold and my grip loosened more. I felt so many emotions during those months of suffering—fighting to find reality again while parenting, being a wife, working full time, and experiencing deep shame from not being strong enough to fight the anxiety alone.
I found reality again thanks to women at church urging me to see my doctor and then consistently checking on me and asking hard questions. Sleep, appropriate medication, women who loved me well, a husband who listened to my thoughts and spoke what was right and true to me helped so much during this season. But as the fog lifted, the Spirit gave me a vision of God reaching his hand down and lifting me from a deep pit. It was so impactful that I still get chills and tear up thinking about it. As I pondered on this I realized I wasn’t being lifted from the most recent pit of anxiety, but the deep pit I had been in of bitterness and control. That deep-rooted sin of me thinking that I was in control and convincing myself that God was pleased with my good plans was rooted so deeply that it was painful when it was uprooted. I had spent countless years pursuing my own righteousness instead of walking in freedom under the cover of Jesus’ righteousness, paid for me with his life, death, and resurrection.
First Things First
I am reminded of my freedom in Jesus in Matthew 6:25-34. You are probably familiar with this passage which begins this way:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Well-meaning people would point me to this verse with a smile on their face and a polite “There, there. See, there is nothing to worry about!” but the anxiety was still there. In my study of these verses, verse 33 is the key, and it has nothing to do with my ability or strength. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” My prayers changed from “God, look at my good plans,” to “God, thank you that I am covered with your righteousness and don’t have to earn it by… (here you can insert anything from having an immaculate house to making perfect plans).” I began to truly seek God’s righteousness and all the things in that passage were indeed added to me. God, by his grace, is setting me free from my anxiety, fear, and desire for control.
Praise God for His thoughts and ways that are higher than my own. Left to my own plans I would still be spinning out of control from all the things about life I can’t control. Now I can rest in my good Father, my strong tower, a safe place of refuge when this broken world seems too close and too broken for comfort. Because of Jesus I can live in the freedom of Jesus who has already overcome the world (John 16:33) even though the kingdom of God has not yet come in fullness, leaving us in this world of anxiety, depression, and death (Rom 8). For now, I run to my strong tower when I am weak. There, I am safe (Prov 18:10).