I think there are always three things which determine what happens to you and where you go. One is the most obvious - what you do to prepare and achieve your intentions. The second is how your intentions align with who you are - for example, it would be foolish to apply for a job as a doctor if you hadn't done any training or any science since you were 14. And the last, and most important, is God's intentions for you. And I think God's intentions ca be split into two areas. One, his intention for the world and humankind, which you are part of. This of course, is his higher story that has danced over humanity since time eternal - the plan for us to be with Him in his kingdom perfect, sinless and saved, in unimpeded relationship with him. Two, his intention for each individual person and how he guides their footsteps and what they meet along life's journey - like how he guided Mother Theresa to India, and Brother Andrew in and out of Eastern Europe.
Often, seeing how God's plan for your life reconciles with his plan for humanity seems difficult.
'God, if you want us to be saved, to live happily ever after with you, to live a perfect life, why is my life so imperfect? Why do I face suffering, disappointment, confusion? How does this work?'
The difficulty in reconciling the two is often because our understanding of or faith in God's plan for our life on earth is blocked out by our desire for his plan to reconcile with our plans for our life. We're like those tiny Jack Russel Terriers who bark so loudly at the world and demand attention. 'See here, God,' we say, 'I've planned out the next 25 years, here's the blueprint: This is the university, here's the husband, this is the exact number of and genders of the children who are to follow, and this is the house in this place with this garden - if you could get it for me cheap that would help too thanks. When all this is done I'll submit the next blueprint for the next 25 years including a retirement plan, ok? Ok.' But really, all our sound is pathetic because we have no way of determining things so out of our control, and worse, that sound blocks out the music God is weaving into our lives.
Last year, I had a difficult time seeing God's plan for my life over my own micro-managing. I had a plan: Get a place in a UK University (Preferably Durham or Cambridge), get a scholarship to go there, go there. That was it.
'That's not much God, is it?'
Everything seemed to be going to plan. I submitted my university applications and got an acceptance quite quickly from Durham, which I was over the moon with. I applied for the MFA scholarship, and thought, ok that's the next 6 years after university devoted to diplomacy and international relations. Not something I'm deeply in love with, but I suppose the cultural side of it will be engaging. I can do it, I just need to pass the tests and the interview.
I went through the psychological test, the assessment center, and then the interview, and wasn’t sure that I had done well but prayed so hard that it was enough. But on the last day of my A levels, just as I was jubilantly happy about completing everything, I received a rejection letter from the MFA. I remember sitting on my parents bed, reading it and being first shocked, and then so angry with God. I had everything planned out, and (I thought) He had just ruined it! I was so angry that I began crying, and my Mum came in and tried to comfort me, saying what she usually says, which is that it is part of God’s plan, we don’t see why yet, but it is part of God’s plan. I was so angry at that time that I sort of sobbed out ‘Then His plan is WRONG’.
‘Why would you give me a place if you won’t let me GO there?’
Oh, I was so impatient, so blind, so human.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
In the NHB scholarship, God's plan really presided over th other aspects which determine what happens to you and where you go came together. Although I did prepare for the application process, reading up about the NHB and really thinking about what I wanted to do within it, I didn't do as much as I'm sure many other applicants did, probably having interned in mueums before. I didn't think that the NHB board would think I was the perfect fit for their organisation, because never before had they accepted a literature student for their scholarship - usually it was history of art, history or museum studies. But I thought, history is just stories after all, and, as Rudyard Kipling said
“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
But I wasn't sure the organisation would see that, and I could only pray.
And of course, by God's grace, I was accepted by the NHB! I wish I could go back to that angry, sobbing, rejected girl in November last year and tell her 'Don't worry, He knows. You don't see it now, but His plan is so much better than you could think.'
'For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.'