I recently interviewed a man whose siblings have birth defects. What, I asked, would he tell expectant parents who have just learned their coming child may be born with defects? What if that’s not what they had planned?
He replied, “I don’t know anyone who can say that their life is what they planned.”
I’ve been pondering that remark ever since. How many of us live lives we didn’t plan?
I planned to be an analytical chemist. (Hey, I can hear you laughing, you know.)
Back in college, my introverted scientific side pictured sitting at a lab bench testing polluted water samples as the epitome of career satisfaction. Before I could even graduate, however, I got collared to teach a chemistry lab for freshmen. Turns out, I kind of liked being around people. And helping them learn what I had learned was surprisingly fulfilling. So I set off to become a science teacher.
During my teacher training, I was asked how much say parents should be allowed in determining their children’s coursework. I felt that parents had less idea what their kids needed than teachers did. That sounded very professional, very elite, very Ivory Tower-ish. I taught for several years under that illusion.
Then I had kids. My own precious kids. And suddenly, I realized the best teachers in the world couldn’t possibly know my kids the way I knew my kids. Some of my kids went to school and got bored because things went too slow. Some got lost because things went too fast. And meanwhile, we were spending all that time away from one another, right at a time when my knit-together family was just getting acquainted.
So I started teaching my own children at home, relying on the God who entrusted these kids to me to also direct me in the way that was best for them.
I never became an analytical chemist.
That beautiful plan went out the window. Do I regret that? No. The Unexpected was only unexpected, not the end of the world.
Sure, not all my surprises have felt fortuitous. There are many parts of my life story which I would have written differently. Living far away from my parents as they aged was nothing I ever planned. Sitting in a courtroom while a drunk driver was convicted of killing my husband was not on my to-do list . . .
You’ve had detours, too, I imagine.
They were unplanned, unexpected. Some may still be unmitigated.
During those times of derailed plans, while we are thrashing about in the throes of The Unexpected, the pain can feel excruciating. We wrestle with our fear of the unknown, our grief over broken hopes and dreams, the anxiety of lost control. (We rarely ask ourselves: Did we ever really have control of our lives before? Who is ultimately the Author of our stories? Can we trust Him?)
But when we finally turn the last page of that unplanned chapter, when we consider all the results of The Unexpected, what will we find then? What will that change of plans have given us?
Did what felt like the “end of the world” turn out to be the rough road to a new world?
Most importantly, did we find the Author walking that road with us all along?
Stories That Must Be Told
This blog was always intended to tell lots of people’s stories. Not just mine. Because it is in telling each other our stories that we can learn from one another. We can see our lives through different lenses, from new perspectives.
So now it’s your turn.
In what way has your life taken you in unintended or unexpected directions? What came of those detours?
Somebody may be longing to hear what you’ve learned from your encounter with The Unexpected. Would you share a piece of your story?
Please do. The floor is yours. (Or, at least, the comment box is yours.)
I’ll be here listening. I don’t know what to expect…but The Unexpected.