Over twenty-five years ago I was in San Diego on a summer break from West Point and I vividly remembering driving through the grounds of a Catholic college campus shouting an obscenity out the car window as loud as I could at a God I didn't think I believed in.
This weekend I had the privilege of attending a wedding for a former youth grouper in San Diego, just a few miles from that site. This young man, along with many other former youth groupers, had moved to San Diego a couple years ago and is strongly involved in a fellowship and ministry while there. Multiple people from our area went to the wedding and Mary Ann and I were awed, and blessed, to see 12 former youth groupers and 6 current youth groupers at the wedding. We had worked with some for the full 6th-12th grade, and others only taken to winter camp once or twice. Some were very strong in the Lord, and others still figuring it out.
It struck me deeply as I looked around the room and as we got to take our picture with all of the former youth groupers, how amazing God's plans are for our lives—and how different they are from what we would probably design, and how different they are from what the world calls valuable.
At the same time I was at West Point Mary Ann would have been getting a degree in foreign language. Some time after we were married and moved where we are now and started working with youth and pastoring the small, rural fellowship we attend someone who knew one of our parents commented something to the effect of, "What a waste. With their education they could have really done something." So often what the world defines as doing something, being successful, etc., is in complete contradiction to the plans God has created each person to walk in. We will have to choose whether to walk in our own plans and wisdom, or to walk in the plans He has created us for.
As I shouted out the window that day I can only imagine that God could see me and could, at the same time, see 25+ years ahead of the moment to when I would be sitting a few miles away, surrounded by youth groupers I had shared His name and story with. And yet, at that moment, He and anything called ministry were a million miles from anything I would have planned for myself.
If I am honest there are times I really struggle. I see people all around me who can take vacations whenever they want. I see people who can fix their cars, buy what they want, go to the doctor freely, etc. I struggle, not with the people (who I have nothing against, and many of who have been overwhelmingly generous to us), but with jealousy. Then I look around me and the world and see all the people who have so much less than me and the condemnation comes in for feeling that way. It is a battle, but one in which moments like the wedding will frame my thoughts. I will see my life, my family, the lives that have been touched by God in some way through our meager efforts, and I have to ask, "What could I possibly get or have gotten for myself that would have any eternal value or true, lasting happiness, compared to that which I get by being who God calls me to be, in the way and place He calls me to be it?"
It is something, I think, we all have to decide—over and over. Will I frame and define my life, or will I allow the One who created me for special plans frame and define it? And, truly, when we think about it, what could we possibly do or get for ourselves that would, in the end, not seem hollow compared to the privilege and eternal value and wisdom in serving the Lord who is worthy of all honor and glory, and walking in the unique plans He has created each of us for?