My husband fake proposed to me 4 times before the real deal! I am not kidding. He got down on one knee at least 4 times and sent my heart racing in full expectation of a marriage proposal only to be devastated and ticked off by his goofy smile and teasing questions like, “Babe, I love you….will you… (pause for dramatic affect) Go to dinner with me?”
Say what?!!!!!! After several punches, tears and dramatic words….I would slowly pull myself together again. By the time he actually proposed officially, he caught me by such surprise, I didn’t even know what to say. I think my response was…. “Is this for real?” Had I been a quick thinker, I would have made him work harder for that yes. However, I was so excited that my dream was finally being fulfilled that I forgot about all of those disappointing moments because this was the moment I had been waiting for!
You see, I had a plan.
We had been dating since high school. We were headed in the same direction, both feeling a call towards ministry. We loved God and loved each other. We knew that we wanted to pursue our purpose together for the rest of our lives. So naturally, I made a plan! (Ha!) I would finish college in 4 years….we would marry after graduation and start this great adventure!
Of course, I informed Carey of my plans. There was a time line to follow. A wedding in May meant I needed a proposal in August and how perfect….we would be in Destin, Florida on the very same beach where he first told me he wanted to spend his life with me. I was creating the perfect scenario for him. The perfect scenario for him to throw my perfect plan out the window for an even better story!
Have you ever found yourself in a place where your experience did not meet your expectations?
I think this might be the theme of my life! I’m an idealist….I dream big dreams and I like to think I make pretty great plans! I’ve learned that God grins at my well made plans and my false attempt to control the outcome of the dreams He gave me in the first place. I picture him getting down on one knee, grinning and saying “Psych!”
Some of you think my husband was very cruel and how could I possibly compare God to that scenario? But the truth is….I only felt like he was cruel. He was, in his own silly way, saying “Come on babe. Trust me. Let me lead us on this great adventure. Quit trying to control the timing and enjoy the journey!”
I think that is a pretty great picture of God’s love for us.
Proverbs 16:9 say’s “The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.”
The problem we face is when we make the plans and set our hopes in our plan rather than in our God. This is where we run the danger of our experience not matching our expectations.
When experience does not meet expectations we become:
- Devastated– It is a gut punch when all that you are hoping and praying for fails to turn out the way you thought it should.
- Maybe the position of leadership you were dreaming of turns out to be a position of serving in the area of your greatest weakness and you wonder if you have been over looked.
- Maybe your prayers of faith for your loved one battling cancer were answered with a funeral, rather than a miracle.
- Maybe your dreams and prayers for a husband have been met with many lonely nights.
- Maybe the church God called you to plant is taking longer than you thought to match the vision and accomplish the dreams that you have prayed for and believed in.
- Angry– When things don’t go as planned, it is frustrating and we look for someone or something to blame.
- Maybe you have found yourself carrying a weight of failure, blaming yourself for the lack of accomplishment.
- Maybe you blame the leadership in your life for not seeing the “greatness” inside of you and pride is trying to raise it’s ugly head!
- Maybe you blame the people God has entrusted you to lead…. if they would just “get it” we could accomplish so much more.
- Maybe you find yourself blaming God and wondering why you allowed yourself to dream or pray in the first place.
- Disillusioned– This is a scary place to be. This is where doubt set’s in, vision becomes clouded and your perception of people and or situations can become jaded or cynical.
- Maybe you find yourself doubting the dream and the vision that God gave you for your life. You are tempted to hit the brakes and re-route your journey.
- Maybe you find yourself constantly critical of the people in your world who are experiencing the things that you have hoped and dreamed for.
- Maybe comparison and jealousy are clouding your relationships. You can’t be happy for others because you are so consumed with yourself.
I have found myself in many if not all of these situations. I have felt unappreciated and overlooked. I have prayed for miracles and experienced death. I have taken huge steps of faith, fueled by big vision and learned that God is more concerned about the “baby steps” of my journey than He is with my destination! I have been devastated, angry and disillusioned.
So what should you do if you find yourself where I have found myself time after time? The place where experience does not meet expectation.
- Practice an attitude of gratitude– When we pause to think about all of the great things God has done in our life, it changes our perspective.
- Celebrate the little wins along the journey. The time you were able to spend with a loved one. The deeper understanding of the word because you clung to it for dear life. The divine provision because you were in the right place at the right time. The one who said yes to Jesus because you said yes to starting the church or leading the connect group.
- Recognize that the problem may actually be the provision. The struggle will become your story. God will give purpose to your pain.
- Remember, God is never late but he is never early. He is always right on time!
- Surrender the illusion of control– Faith is all about the journey, not the destination. Our expectation does not meet our experience when our hope is in our plan, or our dreams rather than in OUR GOD!
- Make the plan, work the plan but release the plan. God will ultimately direct your destiny and his plan is more challenging, takes a little bit longer but is always much more extravagant!
- Remember, God is all about the journey. What he is doing in you is equally important as what he will do through you! Be patient with the process.
- Keep dreaming, keep praying, keep believing — Place your expectation in Who God is not just what he will do. Don’t quit before you see the story unfold. He is working on your behalf even now!
“He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20