His Plan, Not Mine

A few years ago my mother and I were both part of a six-person ministry team that held a mini-conference in a women's prison. Since I'm an obsessive planner, I had the topic of my talk selected months beforehand. But about a week before we were supposed to go, the Lord changed my topic. As I prayed about what I would discuss, the examples that kept coming to mind were mistakes I'd made in my life. Big ones. God let me know, in no uncertain terms, that He wanted me to give those women my testimony.

I balked. I told Him, "Lord, surely You don’t want me to say those things." I mean, these were intensely personal things, embarrassing things. And besides a hundred or so inmates, my mother was going to be in the room! Not only her, but four other women who I respected, and whose opinions I valued. It's one thing to confess our sins to God and be forgiven. It's another thing entirely to describe those sins to people you respect. But He would not let me off the hook. In the days leading up to that event I came to dread the moment I would take my turn behind the podium.

The day arrived. Inside the prison, the guards led us to a big room full of women inmates. I was last on the agenda. (Of course! It gave me more time to sweat and stew.) The lady who went right before me was super energetic and fun, and she played a game with those women that had them laughing and talking and more animated than they had been all day.

And then I stepped up to the podium. Let me tell you something: I was a real downer. I talked about being raised in an abusive household. And I talked about being the victim of that abuse at the hand of an alcoholic stepfather (who has since passed away.) Then I talked about my life after I left home, about the wrong choices I had made. I opened up my life to those women and exposed all the ugly things I’ve done.

As I talked I started to cry, which was really embarrassing for me. Not only do I not cry easily, but I’d never had much sympathy for speakers who are ‘unprofessional’ enough to cry. I’d even halfway suspected them of indulging in theatrics. Isn’t it funny how God removes our petty little unkindnesses? That experience certainly changed my thinking, and made me more compassionate.

After I’d finished talking about all the deeply shameful things I had done, I told them how God had forgiven me. How He had washed away my sin. And how He had healed me to the point that I was able to forgive the people in my life who had inflicted such deep, painful wounds on me.

When the event was over, woman after woman searched me out to thank me, and to tell me that I had told her story up there. And that, for the first time, they’d been able to see that God’s grace really is big enough to wash away all their sins.

Boy was I glad that God pre-empted my plans that day.

There are times when I contemplate God’s plans for my life - the ones that I can’t see yet - and I’m not very comfortable. I want to say, “Okay, Lord, are you sure Yours is a better plan than mine?” I’m uncomfortable because I’m not really sure that his plan won’t be painful. You know what I’ve discovered? Sometimes it is. But in the end, His plan is always better than mine. He gives me hope. And don’t want any future except the one He has planned for me.

“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, NIV)