I started writing my dissertation last week. (Those of you commenting on my travel albums will be happy to know, yes, I do actually go to school sometimes). This will be the largest piece of writing I've ever done and honestly it's intimidating. I wrote a detailed outline complete with three chapters and rough word counts. I sent it off to my supervisor and this was his response:
"Take your outline as a rough guide for now, I'm sure it's going to change as you gather more data and become more familiar with what's going on."
This, while the obvious response, was not the one I was looking for. I'm the type of person that loves to have a plan; it helps me with another love of mine: efficiency. If I spend time writing 200 words that I'll have to delete later I feel like I wasted my time, even if they were necessary to write in order to realize I didn't need them.
The more I write, the more I realize that this is often how I approach my life. I have this grand plan, complete with what I want each chapter to look like and a rough timeline. But when I get into it — gather more data and become familiar with what's happening in each season of my life — I realize that my plan needs to change. I know ultimately this change will make things better, but it's still hard for me to redirect without feeling like I wasted time.
These days though, I'm starting to understand Ernest Hemingway (and all other cliché quotes to this end), "It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." When we view experiences or relationships as wasted time if they don't turn out the way we've planned, we're belittling the lessons we're capable of learning in each season.
Years ago I read a short story relayed by Max Lucado that stuck with me. Read it here. It's about a community that is quick to analyze whether situations are a blessing or a curse. It points to the reality that as humans we are so eager to be in control, to know exactly what is happening and why. This love of control gives us the sense that if we can just figure out exactly what God's doing in our lives, we can be one step ahead of Him. But why do we want this? I think it's partly because uncertainty leads us to a place of dependence and vulnerability that the majority of us do not want to experience.
These words — dependence and vulnerability — bring with them so many connotations that lead us to avoidance. But in a relationship with God they're so healthy. I think God is constantly calling us to let go, to relax into Him, to be honest with Him, and to trust that HIs plan is better than anything we could ever concoct on our own. There are events in this life that we will never fully understand. There is a level of trust that God asks of us that sometimes seems unfair. But, I am reminded that God is in the business of redemption and that He has far greater foresight than I can comprehend. So these days I'm learning to take all of my plans as a rough guide and leave the rest to HIm.