Most of us have a plan for our lives. We call it a life plan or a career track or a 10 year something or other. Usually, our plans involve wonderfully pretentious things like investment portfolios, curb appeal, and monogrammed bathrobes. And these things are absolutely important. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love a plush, monogrammed bathrobe?
But I don’t have a plan anymore.
A year ago Heather and I threw our plan away. I mean we really threw it away. We balled it up tightly, lit it on fire and tossed it over a cliff so we could never grab for it again. Remember that time Frodo dropped his shiny ring into the big Grand Canyon of lava? Yep, that was us.
Within a matter of two months, we handed over our life’s work, said goodbye to our dearest friends, rented the world’s most yellow truck and moved to a city where we knew no one.
Lava – 1; Life plan – 0.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried that: a do-over at life. Maybe you have, or maybe you’re thinking about doing it in the near future. If that’s you, I’m hoping this post will help.
Here are 5 things I learned when I threw my life way:
1) Money can’t be the deciding factor.
For years, Heather and I lived under the fear of “but we don’t have enough money for that.” Church planting taught us that money is scarce. So we said things like “one day” and “if the money comes in.” But dreams happen independently of bank statements. Don’t wait to have enough money. You can find a way to make it happen: we did. Chase your dream.
2) Don’t expect other people to get excited about your story.
I thought we came to Texas with a pretty compelling story. It read something like this: Church planter goes rogue…moves across country…gives up everything to start over. It was a story dripping with conflict and intrigue—or so I thought. But after multiple lunches where my “Story of the Year” didn’t carry the conversation past the appetizer, I realized that my story was only interesting to me. Don’t expect people to drop their salad forks and whisper, “Tell me more, great traveler.” They almost never do that.
3) Listen to your heart.
Okay, I know how campy that sounds. It’s the perfect title for a Lifetime Movie of the Week; I get that. But the truth is that God speaks to your heart. In fact, the Bible says that he gives us the desires of our heart (Ps. 37:4). I believe he gives us those desires because he is the one who put them there.
Our life was in eastern North Carolina, but our hearts were being drawn to North Texas. So we decided to follow our hearts. We moved to a city we could love, started serving at a church where we could contribute, and chose to raise our kids in a region where they might be less likely to move away from us. (I don’t even want to think about that.) Listen to your heart.
4) Right or wrong, God will protect you.
So many people I talk to are afraid to “miss God.” They think that if they make the wrong decision, they’ll be out of his will and, therefore, out of his protection. Newsflash: it doesn’t work that way. God is a gracious, loving Father. He doesn’t protect you because you made the perfect decision; he protects you because he loves you. It’s okay to take risks; it’s okay to live unhindered and without fear. God likes that.
5) Put the needs of your family first.
I grew up in a ministry family, and we were often outmuscled by the needs of the church. My dad once infamously declared, “As a pastor, I have a higher calling. God first; ministry second; family third.” Ouch! I vowed never to do that to my family. But vows are broken so easily.
Before I moved, we had no health insurance, I was working 70 hours a week, and Heather was suffering anxiety attacks after Sunday services. My life plan wasn’t working; it was putting my family at risk. This made our move an easy decision. Always put your family first.
Don’t get me wrong, my new life is far from perfect. It’s 8,000 degrees in Texas, I’m just as broke as ever, and I miss being in the ministry every single day. But of all the things I’ve learned, perhaps the most important is that backward is the wrong way to look. God is moving forward, and he’s calling us to move with him.
So that’s my new plan. I think I’ll hold onto that one.