I am writing this after a weekend that did NOT go as I had planned. First, I was supposed to go cross country skiing with several friends, and it was going to a new place that was going to give new photo ops. But then one by one, my friends were not able to go. I was down to one other friend and we decided to go for a local hike, since we both still wanted to get out, but we both had lots of other stuff to do as well.
Saturday morning came, and I went from feeling not great to horrifically awful pretty quickly. I cancelled and my friend headed in to work early. Which was good, because the project that they had to get done ended up taking longer than they thought it would. Given that I spent a weekend feeling pretty crappy, especially on Saturday, it's nothing that I planned or wanted.
Did it go down like this?:
My Plan A: Get up early in the morning to go have a blast in the mountains!
My Plan B: Get up a little later and still have fun in the mountains, but for a shorter time, doing something a little different.
Actual circumstances: Be really glad that I wasn't in the middle of a long car ride when I started going from feeling a little off to realizing the plague had found me. Due to the later start time, I was still at home as pestilence hit in earnest and I was able to call it off in time.
God's plan: Let Plan A all fall apart, since He, knowing what I did not (that the plague was coming), knew that I would need a little later start in the morning.
Honestly, I don't really think that God's such a puppet master as all of that. There is a lot of my life that has really not gone according to plan. By the time I was 33, I was supposed to be living in a home of my own with my husband and our 3-4 children and counting. There was no doubt in my mind that it would work like that. There have been times where I have thought that maybe all of that was in order that things could happen in a certain way: i.e., as a single I learned about Theology of the Body and grew hugely in my understanding of the dignity of persons. I made deep friendships with people that mean so much to my life. I moved to the mountains and pursued things I never dreamt of pursuing, like photography and rock climbing and somehow even became something of an athlete in the process. If we follow the above logic, then it would seem that I stayed single as part of God's plan in order that all of those things might happen. As if they could not have happened otherwise.
I do not claim to know exactly how God's planning process works. I do know that if it works how the above scenario rolls out, then I have a huge problem with it. Because in what realm is it really better for me to not be able to share my life with a husband and family? How can it really be best for wonderful, loving, married couples not to be able to have children? How can it be a part of God's plan for people to do hateful and horrible things to each other? In what part of the plan did He ignore the children that are suffering and dying? And why would God need those things to happen in order to bring about these other things in our lives?
While I don't know exactly how "God's plan" works (because while I do not believe He's a puppet master, I do believe that He's actively and mysteriously involved in all aspects of our lives) I do have a little vision of His plan for you. Here's how I think that it might go:
God's plan for you: Personally meet you and be with you in whatever you are going through right now, happy, sad, mundane, devastating, joyous. Walk with you in that moment, use that moment- if you let Him- to draw you closer to Him in ways that you could not have begun to imagine, and help you fully become who you are called to be. Although He does not cause sin and death and sadness, when those inevitably happen, He has a plan for even those to become a source of amazing grace for you and for many around you.
Being single for this long and broken me in more deeply and in different ways that I ever dreamed were possible, but each and every single time He's been there. You know, I think this is part of the reason that the whole article about "23 things to do instead of getting engaged before 23" or whatever has struck such a strong chord, both positively and negatively, with so many people. In some ways she was exactly right in suggesting that you should fully live and grow in the circumstance that you're in (though I highly disagree on some of the things that she suggested as truly living life deeply). But she was also exactly wrong in suggesting that you can't live life fully and deeply if you get married too young. I think the secret is to live the life you have to the fullest. Because any story that is lived deeply is a great story.
And we might as well embrace the story of our lives, because we can never count on our plans working out. This weekend, I planned to meet God in the mountains on Saturday and at Mass on Sunday. Instead, He met me in the midst of the stomach flu on the couch. Not because one was better than the other, but because there is no place or circumstance where He would not plan to meet us.