The snow was flying and the roads were getting icier by the minute. We were driving down to Phoenix from Pinetop and a snowstorm had blown in as we approached our descent from the rim.
My husband was at the wheel while I helpfully gripped the armrest of the passenger seat, every fiber of my being willing our car to stay under control. By the time we reached Payson, I was exhausted and my neck was a knotted mess.
We had made it safely but with no thanks to my Herculean efforts to keep the car on the road.
For some of us, getting through 2009 was like driving down the rim in a snowstorm. Some of us were in the driver’s seat, some were just along for the ride. But we’ve made it, and now 2010 stretches out before us. Perhaps the road ahead looks clear for now or perhaps we are still in the middle of an ice storm.
Either way, at this time of year it is good to pull off to the side and get our bearings. Look back on where we have been, consider where we are and anticipate and plan for the journey in front of us.
I find great comfort in planning and preparing. I like to see my calendar for the next several months. I like to have goals and purpose providing structure to my very unstructured nature. Part of my comfort comes from learning painful lessons in the past from winging it from moment to moment and getting caught unprepared. Planning and preparation are marks of maturity.
But if I look a little deeper I can see that what I crave even more is control. I hang on tight to the illusion that if I plan and prepare well enough I will be in control of the days ahead. Kind of like gripping the armrest of the passenger seat and pressing my feet onto imaginary brake pedals, as if that kept the car on the road.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” That feels a little unsettling. I want to plan my course and determine my steps.
This past fall I had a very specific plan. I set aside all commitments to focus on getting our home and family life de-cluttered and in order. I had intended to empty every drawer and closet and for once be very organized.
Then everything changed. Things came up that I had not planned. Good things, for the most part, but I never did get my plan finished. I thought I had cleared my calendar for one purpose, for the course I had set, but now I can see that God directed my steps for a different purpose. A better purpose. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)
And God promises us that his purpose is in our best interest. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
So as I look ahead and plan for 2010, I am doing so in pencil. I’m making goals and being intentional. This is a good thing. If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.
But I’m working to hold these plans lightly, to loosen my grip on the armrest and let the driver do the driving. And, trusting that He will get me where I am supposed to go.
Jennifer Zach lives in Ahwatukee Foothills with her husband and three children. They are members of Bridgeway Community Church. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.