When my husband and I were dating, he had this (irritating!) habit of asking what I wanted. Example:
Him: Where do you want to go out for dinner?
Me: I don’t care. [I really didn’t!] You pick.
Him, pulling over into a parking lot: No problem. We can just sit here until you know what you want.
See what I mean? Good grief.
Truth: I’m not great at knowing what I want. At least, not since high school. Before high school I knew what I wanted. But that’s when—due to some unhealthy insecurity and a mildly healthy desire to serve and surrender to what God wanted—I uncovered a great delight in pleasing. (My husband maintains that I can please with the best of them, but that lurking underneath is still a strong will to be reckoned with. He even goes so far to suggest that this strong will is attractive to him. I mean, can you trust this guy? Really?)
This has been gut-wrenching lately because when it comes to staying in Africa or moving back to the U.S., I actually did want something very much. I wanted to stay. And after giving up a lot of the things that don’t matter to me, it has at times felt almost a betrayal that God might ask me to give up one of the things that does.
Vision and Courage
A couple of years ago, my husband (who I actually really do have a pretty big crush on, and who continually advocates for me when other guys would have bulldozed me) and I thought we might need to leave Uganda over work permit issues. He told me, Whatever God has for us, I would like for you to be able to move ahead with vision and courage.
So I hold that now in my mind, rubbing my fingers over it like a smooth stone. Vision. As in, without vision, the people perish.
I believe that now.
Honestly, I think a vision would help me to move ahead with…joy, rather than just muscling through this. And I really believe that more than muscle, God states over again that He would like that joy. Like my husband, He has this thing about people not just robotically doing what He wants out of obligations. He didn’t create windup toys. He created sons and daughters.
So there’s that.
I’m thinking, if I took my kids to Six Flags and—after we got through the gates and lathered on sunblock and I rubbed my hands together with mommy-happiness that I just overpaid for—I said, “All right! What do you want to do?” And they shrugged and said, “We don’t care. What do you want to do, Mom?” I’d be honored for, like, two seconds. And then I would be bummed. Because I love my children having desires. I like seeing what delights them inside—a lot.
“Hope is Plan B”
Brene Brown, in her wise and important book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, wrote something that captured my attention. She describes her shock over C.R. Snyder’s research on hope.
First I thought hope was a warm, fuzzy emotion—the feeling of possibility. Second, I was looking for something that I had thought of as being scrappy and nicknamed ‘Plan B’—these folks could turn to Plan B when Plan A fell apart.
As it turns out, I was wrong about hope and right about scrappy and Plan B.
According to Snyder, “hope isn’t an emotion; it’s a way of thinking or a cognitive process.” Brown, describing Snyder, outlines a basic trilogy of goals when hope happens:
Realistic goals: “I know where I want to go.”
We can figure out how we’ll achieve them, and stay flexible: “I know how to get there, I’m persistent, I can tolerate disappointment and try again”
We believe in ourselves: “I can do this!”
Again: “Hope is Plan B.”
As Brown elaborates, “Hope is a function of struggle.” I see this in Scripture: Suffering produces endurance; endurance produces character; character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit…
Our Plan B may just be His Plan A. Because in truth, He is all over our Plan B. In truth, He’s why we hope at all. Hope in God, the Psalms compel us over and over.
That’s how I’d adjust #3 above: We believe in God working in us.
In fact, He makes Plan B airtight. Because even if Plan B doesn’t materialize, He’s channeling me right where I’m created to be. He’s going to be there, rooting for me and His glory even if it all unspools to Plan Q. Plan B (…or Q) happens not because I just ducked and let Him kick me there: He uses the way I’m made; the things I long for, the passions that fuel me.
I like what blogger Larissa Marks writes in her post, Permission to Want and Desire:
What if God has deposited your deepest desires into you? What if he designed you to know him more intimately in those desires? Consider the reality that Jesus often asked that very question: what do you want? What do you want me to do for you?
So perhaps knowing what I want is more okay than I thought it was. Of course it’s important to know what I want anyway—because in my lack of honesty, sometimes what I want wheedles its way into my agendas. The ugly result can be manipulation I don’t even know I’m imposing on others, or on God. (Saying “I believe God for x!” can sometimes just be a way of saying, Faith is my way of persuading God to give me what I want. I’m sure He wants the same thing.)
But though my desires can be infected with my own sin and weakness—God also created desire. We are not Buddhists who believe that nirvana is achieved when we don’t want anything. God is the creator of passion, of dreams, of hunger, of thirst. Because He’s also the Bread of Life; the Living Water.
If you’re feeling powerless today—want with me. Know where you want to go. Open-handedly; worshipfully. But want. For the sake of the Kingdom, for the sake of joy and hope—know where you want to go.
Like this post? You might like