The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
(Proverbs 16:9 ESV)
What does your to-do list look like? Is it scribbled on scraps of paper, neatly laid out in your planner or bullet journal, typed up on a list in your phone, or written casually in the recesses of your mind? As type-A as I tend to be, my to-do lists typically end up hastily jotted down on whatever piece of paper is nearest to me at the time I decide a list is necessary. They are honestly pretty sloppy and almost entirely useless but it makes me feel better to do a brain dump once a day.
Prior to having kids, I would lay out my day a bit more neatly and in significantly more detail. Really, it was more of a schedule; every activity planned to the minute. You can imagine the adjustment I had to make after my first little one was born. Shockingly, babies do not operate according to my schedule. They have their own ideas of what is crucial to accomplish in a given day, and learning to adapt to that took some time on my end. Okay, let’s be real, it’s still taking some time.
I love this verse in Proverbs; “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) I’ve always considered this in the context of where I live, when I have kids, what job to pursue, and where to volunteer; you know, the “big things”. To be sure, it does include these, but decisions that land in the category of “major life changes” are not the only ones we work at planning. I would venture to guess that, if you’re a list-maker, much more energy is spent on planning out each individual day leading up to, waiting on, or in between those significant and life-altering events. We spend most of our time at the ground level, wrapped up in the seconds, minutes, and hours that compose our often ordinary days.
We can, and should, wisely organize our time in a God-honoring way, but what happens when our days hit a snag (or ten) and suddenly the plans we had are forced to fall by the wayside? It does not have to be anything extreme. Traffic, a chatty stranger, forgetting that you needed to get gas, tantrums, or waking up with a cold are all minor nuisances in the grand scheme of life, but they are also enough to wreck our perfectly planned days. I don’t know how you react to this, but more often than I’d like to admit, I do not handle interruptions well. I find myself feeling anxious and stressed because now (heaven forbid!) the dishes may not get washed or that nagging little load of laundry may have to wait another day. I begin to behave as though my time is my own and my life is something I have utter control over. My unspoken attitude is, “Sure God, you can have the big stuff, but I’m going to hang on to the little things #thankyouverymuch.”
I was convicted while reading this verse recently, though. My heart does make plans, just so many plans. While this isn’t wrong in itself, if I am not relinquishing my plans to the Lord and trusting that the bottom isn’t falling out if He alters them, then my plans are becoming an idol. I am failing to believe that this verse means that the Lord establishes our steps in the little moments as well as the not-so-little. As Tim Keller so aptly states, “It is always God’s prerogative to arrange your schedule”*. We make our lists, but He determines our reality. How we react to those rearrangements reflects what we believe about who is in control of our life – us or God.
This week, there will undoubtedly be interruptions to our plans, we will not accomplish all that we set out to, and there will be days that end with a feeling of defeat. Isn’t this more often than not what transpires? Yet, if you’re like me, you pick yourself up and try, try again to make the perfect plans. But what if we chose another way this week?
What if we chose to make wise plans, but to hold them loosely?
What if we chose to commit those plans to Jesus, allowing Him to change them?
What if we chose to see those changes as divine and in the best interest of both His Kingdom and our life?
What joy, what peace might we find in saying, “I would like to do xyz if the Lord wills it” instead of “I need to do xyz”?
In addition to finding ourselves more attuned to what God is doing in and around us, I venture to guess that we would find ourselves with a greater sense of peace and joy. It also just may lead to a tad more adventure.
Friends, this week as we drive to work, play with little ones, and run our errands, let’s be intentional about submitting our time to God. Let’s remember that even the smallest interruptions are ordained or allowed by Him, and let’s lift our eyes away from ourselves and our plans, shifting our gaze to what Jesus is doing in these moments. The dishes will get done, eventually. The laundry might, too. Let’s rest in His perfect plans in the meantime.