Today reminded me that, no matter how perfectly I plan something out, God always has something else He wants to happen. Despite my efforts to plan everything down to the very last detail, God changes everything up so I have no choice but to give my day and its outcome to Him. To some people this may seem selfish of God. First of all, God can’t be selfish; it’s not His nature. Second of all, I don’t see this action as selfish at all. God can see that planning and knowing what’s going to happen before it happens is a huge deal for me; He knows that if everything goes according to my plan, I’ll get into the habit of not remembering Who controls everything anyway. And then, when a time comes that something doesn’t go according to plan, it’s very possible I would crash and burn (or something like that) because I wouldn’t be falling back on Him, but rather on myself.
In other words, God does this because He loves me and wants to be able to use me. It’s a God thing.
Let me show you.
Last night I had constructed in my brain everything that was to happen today. This morning, Lin was going to leave the dorm before me and I was going to make our dorm into a birthday surprise for her. Then, after being incredibly elegant and productive throughout the day, I was going to go to the Rockefeller Tree Lighting with Charlene and Karly.
I laid in my bed this morning, waiting for Lin to get up and go to class before I got out of bed. I had class at eleven and she normally left at nine-thirty. I would have plenty of time. Well, nine o’clock rolls around, the time she normally gets up to start getting ready, and she hasn’t made a single move that gave the slightest sign she was going anywhere today. By nine-thirty I’m beginning to wonder if I don’t know her schedule as well as I thought. Remembering that I still had to get ready for class, I finally got out of bed and went and washed my face, brushed my teeth, etc. I figured she’d be up and moving by the time I came back. I walk in the dorm and she’s moved all right; she’s curled up in a ball and pulled the covers over her head.
I have a silent fit and jerk about the room it frustration because she has to leave and I can’t decorate the room and do the thing unless she’s not there. After calming myself down, I decide I’ll just do it during lunch time. I check my schedule and then find out I have Writer’s Forum during the time I normally had free.
This was not working out.
Giving up momentarily I do my devotions and talk to God, eventually deciding that, even though I won’t be able to do it during lunch or in the morning, I should have time before my last class of the day or even before I head off to Manhattan for the tree lighting. Everything is good for a moment.
I read the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego today as I continued my reading of the book of Daniel. This particular passage further solidified King Nebuchadnezzar’s mood swings along with his teenage-girl emotional capacity. But despite the fiery furnace being so hot that it killed the men who through Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into it, despite the punishment that came with defying the king’s commands, and despite the pressure to give in to their surroundings and go against God this one time, this trio stood firm in God’s plan for them. They saw the big picture through His eyes. Check this out:
King Neb: “Is it true, O Shadrach Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
Shad, Mesh, and Abe: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:14-17, ESV)
Can you imagine? A fierce king is standing before you, willing to give you one more chance to do what he says. He’s threatening your life, your very existence. All you have to do is bow. But these guys stand strong on the Rock; they are not moved. So the king throws them into the furnace. Most people would think, “oh well, they were good people who stood up for what they believed.” NOOOOO!!! Don’t you dare water this down! This is the same statement placed on Jesus’ death. “oh well, he was a good teacher who stood up for what he believed.” But nobody ever wants to talk about the next part of the story, the next event in the history of the world. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego don’t die. They DON”T DIE. Nebuchadnezzar looks into the furnace and sees four men walking through the fire. Three of them (the original three who were thrown in) walk out; “the hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them” (3:27). It was as if they had never been thrown in. What amazes me the most, I think, is how so many writers describe things like this in their own stories, normally placed in a fantasy world or even in fantastical occurrences in everyday life. This really happened. This is not fantasy, folks; this is reality.
My devotions were especially encouraging this morning, as you can see. Though spending time in God’s word every morning is definitely what sustains me and prepares me for the day and gives me hope and joy, today was especially uplifting. I head off to World Literature with a smile on my face. My class (my last World Literature class of the semester, mind you :D) ends forty minutes early, so I decide to run back to the dorm to see if Lin has left yet. I literally walk down the dorm hallway, grab my door handle, see that it’s unlocked (a sure sign she’s still there), and walk back down the hallway and out the dorm, my head hanging.
I go to lunch and go to forum and get ready to go to Critical Thinking & Writing, but I decide to try to decorate the room one last time. The door is still unlocked, but I decide to go in anyway.
LIN WAS NOT IN THE ROOM!!!
With the help of some of my wonderful writing major people, I blow up balloons and strew them all over her desk, place the cake and the candles on her desk, and hang the picture above the cake. Success!
Once we’ve finished decorating the room, I head off to Critical Thinking & Writing. This class was…well, weird. Marcy was listening to an orange….yeah. I don’t think she had quite recovered from Monday…I was kind of worried. Regardless, class went well and we had some good discussions. Most of my classmates talked about the self and how things affect the self and my professor contributed to talking about the self. One quote taken from the book we’re reading talked about how “knowing ourselves less” is considered the convention. I brought up the observation that “knowing ourselves less” is not at all the convention. Just look around. The convention of creating, constructing, worshiping, and idolizing the self is screaming at you. Statements like, “follow your heart” and “do what makes you happy” and “you deserve it” push people to think about themselves, not about others or even about there being something bigger and more important than themselves. I said that if thinking of ourselves less was truly the convention, then we wouldn’t be sitting in a circle of desks discussing the self. When I mentioned this, my professor said it was an interesting observation but she stopped there and moved on to responding to a different point I had brought up. Why didn’t she challenge it?
After Critical Thinking & Writing I found out that neither Charlene or Karly were able to go to the tree lighting with me tonight…which meant I had nobody to go with. The problem with this is that I wasn’t going to let myself go without someone else…my going into Manhattan, alone, at night, in a big crowd of people just didn’t sound like the smart thing to do. Finally, after much investigation, I found someone who had been looking for an excuse to go: Clara.
Clara is a new character, but she’s been part of my story for a while now. She goes to my church and is probably one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet 🙂 Her and I went to the tree lighting together and we had a great time. We ate subway vendor churros (I’ve never had a churro before, and I have to say I think it might be my new favorite snack), got red velvet cheesecake from the Magnolia Bakery (a bakery that I had read about once in a book and had on my list of places to visit…this might also be my new favorite snack), had great conversations, and sang along with Maria Carey as she performed. I had no idea there was a huge performance by different artists leading up to the tree lighting. It was such a pleasant surprise! Artists like Ariana Grande, Maria Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Jewel, Audra MacDonald, and Leona Lewis were all performing live! I got to see all these people! 😀
A not-so-pleasant surprise was just how many people were at the lighting. For some stupid reason, I had pictured Clara and I being able to just stroll up to the tree, stand there with a group of maybe twenty or thirty people, and witness the tree lighting. No big deal. Maybe I imagined it this way because this is how things normally happen back in the Sticks. Boy was I wrong. We spent the majority of the night trying to politely push through people and maneuver our way through crowds. We were pushed, squished, talked to, yelled at, you name it. But we still had a great time 😀 The tree had 45,000 lights on it, and it was definitely a sight to see. It was huge, ginormous, mammoth, any large-ish adjective you can possibly think of. It was beautiful.
When I returned to my dorm it was late. But when I found the door to be unlocked, I burst open saying, “Happy Birthday!” because I knew Lin would be sitting at her desk, doing homework. And she was! She was so surprised. She honestly thought I had forgotten (which was the plan, in order to make the surprise even more of a surprise). We had a great conversation afterwards. Apparently she had skipped class today, considering it was her birthday, she’s never skipped class, and she was absolutely exhausted. She also went to the Christmas tree lighting 😀 We talked about the crowds and the tree and Christmas and we somehow got onto the subject of language. She explained to me that there are three words in Mandarin (the form of Chinese she speaks) that all have the same spelling but, when different pitches are applied (there are four), mean three completely different things: sentence, orange, and saw (like something you use to cut wood). Can you imagine? “Yes, I ate a saw today.” “Sure, I’ll cut this log with an orange.” “No thank you, I don’t want to eat a sentence.”
As we continued with our talk of language, I told her about the Tower of Babel and how that was the formation of languages. I’ve always loved that story. She asked me where it was in the Bible and I told her. I hope she reads it 🙂 I was going to ask her if she wanted me to read it to her, since it was right in front of me, but I thought it might be better if she had the opportunity to read it in her own language first.
So, if my plan had all worked out the way I wanted it to, none of the wonderful things that happened today would’ve happened. I probably wouldn’t have talked to Lin about God, I probably wouldn’t have been able to spend time with Clara and become closer friends with her, I probably wouldn’t have learned as many things or been able to exercise trusting God to come up with a better plan than me. When I was getting shot down every time I tried to decorate for Lin, something seemingly trivial, I was able to take the opportunity to step back and trust that I would have time to do this thing for her. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without Him; I wouldn’t have been able to trust Him without Him being Him. The same with trying to find someone to go with me to the tree lighting. I had really wanted to go with Charlene and Karly, but both of them backed out (not that I think any less of them for it; it’s the week before finals). And then God gave me a great opportunity to spend time with Clara 🙂 The whole day was all about God showing me He knows what He’s doing, even when it’s not what I expected.