My sweet husband has just embarked on a new adventure as an elementary school principal. We both know that God has put him in this position. We also know that as much as it is a huge answer to years of praying, the blessing does not rest with Tim alone. We know that God's purpose in this adventure moves through Tim to touch countless lives that will be affected by Tim's leadership.
With the new position comes a new office. A bare, stark white office. One that needs some serious attention. I don't know if he meant it, but Tim invited me to decorate. I set to work making curtains, bulletin boards, a cover for his tissue box so that it would match. But with all the effort, there was still one wall that was out of place. A barren expanse of white-washed wall that sucked the life out of the room. I told him I would make him a piece of art.
I knew I had to find a way to use the colors in his curtains. I also knew whatever I created had to be something worth looking at everyday: an inspiration, a mandate, a word of encouragement. Here is what came to me:
The original idea didn't look very impressive. Original ideas never do. They have not yet had the process of engagement to flesh them out, to make them incarnate, to take what was simply thought and turn it into glorious reality. The faint sketch barely resembles the outcome. But the outline is there. It is just waiting for the process of actualization to become all it is intended to be.
One of my dearest friends used to say to me, "The process is love; don't hinder the process." As a young pastor in my first appointment I found her words so helpful. So much happened during that time. Some confusing things, conflicting things, difficult things. Her words reminded me that our best answer to the questions we must live always begins with love. God's love first. Our love as we walk out His intensions for our lives.
When God began telling us He had plans for Tim, it was during one of the hardest seasons we had ever faced. Tim knew that he was in a position where his skills and passions were being underutilized. He ached for something more in life, yet every avenue to pursue that more seemed closed to him. Into that season God sent this scripture:
"For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope." Jeremiah 29:11
The King James Version states it like this:
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."Truly God has thought this thing through. The thing that keeps you up at night. The thing that looks so hopeless. The thing that feels as if it will drain all the life right out of you. God has thought it through and knows how He is going to bring you through it to resolution, to peace, to joy, to purpose. God will not only infuse your present experience with purpose, He is working to bring you into your purpose, the thing He created you for.
When God gave this message to the Israelites, they were in exile. False prophets all around kept saying God would immediately defeat their enemies and bring them home. Not Jeremiah, who had God's truth. Jeremiah told them they would not return home for 70 years. Yet Jeremiah also brought the message that God had not forgotten about them, that God was intimately connected to what they were experiencing and that He was working on their behalf for good. Real. Tangible. Good. Something they could recognize as good.
During those discouraging days it took everything within us to believe God was going to bring His Good back into our lives. But sure enough He did. I kept telling Tim, "I'll know it when I see it." The day he walked in the door and told me he got the principal's job, I fell to my knees. I knew I had just seen the Goodness of God walk into our lives.
Here is the truth: While God was working out His plans for Tim, He was also working within Tim, making him ready for this day. God was loving him into a new place, teaching him gently, giving him to new understanding, opening his heart, showing him what the process of love really looks like. God was leading him with love into a new place so that he would know how to lead with love, taking those entrusted to his care to God's new place for them.
Here is what I know: Loving God has to be first in our lives. If anything else supersedes that, we are heading for heartache. When we love God with everything we are, God is able to work unhindered in putting His plans into place for us. And once we love God first, God is able to show us how to love everyone else. Ourselves. Our neighbor. Everything else in our lives finds its proper place. And all those plans and intentions and hopes and dreams God has for us begin taking shape. So that one day we see God's Goodness walk right into our lives.