Aside from ministry, my other job is as a professor of public health. Although I didn’t expect it to be a part of my teaching job, I realize that my graduate students and I are traveling together through a fascinating analogy of life. Right now, they are studying how to design programs to help people maintain or regain their health. They are trying to set up interventions that lead to positive outcomes. This requires that they have a scientific knowledge of health and of what motivates behavior. In real life, it also requires that they stay flexible and be willing to re-design as new knowledge or circumstances come into play. This last part is frustrating for students as they would like to see a clear scientific process from the beginning to the end of their goals. It would be nice to plan once and see everything follow as expected. However, plans require adjustment.
As the parent of a child with special-needs, I recall being frustrated in the same way. I studied my children, their strengths, weaknesses, struggles and stumbling blocks. I also studied pertinent research so I could put into place therapies or circumstances in which they could thrive, be healthy, learn and grow. This was good.
However, much to my dismay, 23 years of parenting taught me that reaching desired outcomes is not a scientifically predictable, linear process.
In contrast, the process can be ridiculously tangential, unpredictable and unscientific (at least from my point of view). Maybe the plan is perfectly executed according to God’s design, but at times it can seem like a cruel maze. We might be moving toward our destination and then something takes us back to the beginning or sticks us in some blind dead-end. But in my experience, someone or something would lead us out of that place and forward again. The beauty was that the someone or something was often an idea I would never have imagined. I learned to be flexible and to adjust.
There are good things in my children’s life that had little to do with following a scientific or perfectly executed plan.
They are things that happened in round-about, seemingly random ways– yet they created powerful outcomes. I learned that when my plan did not lead to the expected outcome, then God could execute His plan for my children.
Today’s lesson is this–if you find yourself stressing that you are not following the plans you made or that the plan is not working as expected, you can put that strain behind you.
God doesn’t need us to execute perfectly designed parenting blueprints for our child to reach desired outcomes.
Do the best you can and rest in the Biblical assurance that God is walking through life with your children. He can manipulate the most unexpected and unsavory path to reach a desired destination because His blueprint is perfect. As my graduate students are learning, flexibility and a mind open to new information aids the journey to positive end-points.
We don’t know the details of God’s plans for us or our children. That’s where faith comes in. However, Jeremiah 29:11 tells us about God’s intentions, “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.”