The past year of my life has been filled with some exciting times; however, sometimes the excitement involved the dramatic changing of my plans. Some changes were revealed progressively in small doses. At times new direction came intentionally through prayer and counseling. During one tumulous week my plans changed on a daily basis, not due to my whims but due to influential decision-makers and policies to which I was obligated. Amid sweeping changes, what never changed was God’s constant presence. I have never felt forsaken. When all my plans were uncertain, one fact prevailed: God will never leave me or forsake me. True to his Word, God showed me that I can face anything if God is my everything (Hebrews 13:5).
While training as an Army Chaplain in March and April, I suffered two muscle strains. I returned home to recover from the injury, but the injury never healed as I would later discover. Upon returning in June, I sustained an abdominal muscle tear in the same area as the muscle strain. The physicians discovered the tear along with a large hematoma and an intestinal disorder, all of which were complicating my recovery and hampering performance. I was ordered to abstain from physical activity for 6 weeks to ensure that my abdominal injuries healed. I wanted to push through the pain. As the pain increased during physical training, I realized that I needed to heed the doctor’s orders. Doing so resulting in an additional 8 month delay in my training (which, by the way, I sought to complete 1 year ago) as well as an unexpected redirection of my future living, employment, and ministry plans.
With this situation, I have taken the opportunity to prayerfully consider the road ahead and the Lord’s desired course of action. With the changing of my plans has come the changing of my perspective. The future has become both ambiguous and nebulous. Life has some elements that are uncertain and shifting in terms of employment, full-time service in ministry, and geographic destination. While I am not without new unfolding opportunities to resolve these questions, I do not want to forget the valuable lessons I have learned.
There’s a review method in the Army that we conduct after all events called an “After-Action Review.” We assess what aspects of an event should be sustained and which ones could be improved. We end up with quality insight that advances our ability for future progress. Here are some of my lessons learned from this experience:
- I’ve been protected, directed, and corrected. God’s purpose is bigger than my plans, and I love that. – Philippians 2:13
- I’ve learned more from “failure” than I ever learned from success. Praying hard and thinking long-term are more tangible, substantive aspects of my life now. – Proverbs 24:16, Psalm 138:8
- I don’t fear failure, but I am afraid of regret. I can say with integrity that I’ve done my best, so I have no regrets. – Psalm 26:1
- God’s power later is better than my power now. God directs us to the places where we belong – according to His impeccable timing and His eternal purpose. – Psalm 37:23-25, Ephesians 3:8-12
- You can face anything if God is your everything. – Hebrews 13:5
The great Scottish poet Robert Burns observed insightfully that “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” King Solomon recognized that God places bends in our road that no one can change. Paul knew that every opportunity could be fraught with adversity. Jesus avowed that there were opportunities that could be open or closed only by divine appointment. Now I am learning by experience that I am here, in this situation, by God’s plan in order to fulfill his purpose. I am here on purpose, with purpose. And there’s no better place to be.