“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
As a freshman, coming to college brings the temptation to plan out one’s life for the next few years without even thinking that God may have a different path for us. As advising week progresses at Harvard, every freshman has to explore concentrations. After an advising event, a friend of mine is now considering six concentrations and has no idea how he will narrow it down to one by next year. With concentrations in mind, a student may begin to draw out a back up plan by making space to fulfill pre-med school requirements. I feel the inclination to not only investigate whether graduate school is the place for me, but all this planning also pushes me to start thinking about a career. The college setting has created an environment where each student is highly encouraged to plan and being at Harvard seems to create an atmosphere in which one should be rigorously pursuing those goals.
While it is certainly not wrong to look ahead, it is important to keep in mind that God may have an unexpected role for us to live out. One of my best friends in high school was touched by a summer mission trip to Pittsburg. In order to apply what he learned, he decided to spend the rest of his summer volunteering with kids at our local Boy’s and Girls Club, an afterschool center. As school approached he stopped volunteering in order to devote his time to his final soccer season. Before conference play even started, he sustained an injury while chasing for a ball. No one pushed him down. He was alone, yet somehow one of the strongest players on the field fell to the ground in anguish as he tore his ACL. After having surgery he found out he would not finish his season on the field.
He believes God opened the door for him to continue volunteering. The choice was obvious albeit not necessarily easy to accept. With no longer the option of kicking a soccer ball, he played foosball and table tennis with the kids at the afterschool center. He helped them with their schoolwork and mediated conflicts. He became a friend and role model to them. My friend did not bet on spending his whole senior year hanging out with little kids in place of scoring goals on the soccer field but he embraced the opportunity to serve others.
In the Gospel of Mark, Peter demonstrates that you will start sinking into the sea when you take your eyes off Jesus. Going through with our plans without seeking guidance through prayer and reading God’s Word may overwhelm us and cause unnecessary anxiety. Events may not go as we planned, but if we are seeking for God’s direction we may realize everything is okay. The closing of one door simply means you are being led to a better one. Besides, Jeremiah 29:11 clearly tells us that God has marvelous plans for us and indeed they may be plans we never planned ourselves.