This Was NOT In My Plans
Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it…Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility…They were to be trained…to enter the king’s service (Daniel 1:1, 3, 5)
About the time I think my life isn’t going like I planned, I think of Daniel and his three friends. They were well-educated young men who came from successful Israeli families, nobility even, and were handsome and smart. They were the cream of the Jewish crop whose parents carefully planned their careers before they were born. They were well on their way to living the American, no, Israeli dream: Nice job, good home in a decent neighborhood, a quiver of respectable children and a well-tended 401k.
Then King Nebby shows up and ruins their plans. He destroys their town, carries off the golden articles from the Temple, makes eunuchs of the Daniel and the boys (2 Kings 20:18; Isa. 39:7) and carries them to Babylon where they will serve the king until they die, never to see Israel again. And I think, “Well, I may not have everything I ever wanted, but at least I’m not a eunuch in Iraq.”
That was my thoughts a few days ago when I was walking around the hardware store where I work. Here it is, year 2010, and I’m a forty-nine year old bi-vocational pastor of a tiny congregation in a small Midwestern town, working part-time helping people with their plumbing needs. I don’t own a home, my newest car is seven years old and it scares me to think about the size of my savings account. When I was in Bible college, this is not how I saw myself living when I approached the (assumed) halfway point of life.
Do I wish I had more? You bet. I think about some of my friends who have successful careers, lived in the same town for years, have their family close by and don’t worry about money when they retire. They’re close to paying off their house; they can give to their church and to charity, volunteer at the school or hospital and enjoy grilling in the backyard on weekends. My life didn’t go that way. But then, God never promised our life would follow the well considered path of the American dream.
In fact, I think it would really frustrate me to be a Christian living in America if I really bought into the American Dream. But I don’t. I’ve read the book of Ecclesiastes and I believe what the wisest king on earth wrote. After twelve chapters of meaninglessness, Solomon gives us three words of useful advice: Find a good job, find a good spouse, remember God. In other words, live a meaningful existence, share it with someone and keep God in the center. I’ll add one more to the list: Life is not about me.
We can look at Daniel and his buddies and think, “What a waste of such good potential.” Heck, for all I know a few people have said that about me. But this is only true if the life I live is only about me. Daniel’s generation was instrumental in setting up the next generation to return to the land that would eventually produce the true King of Kings. Likewise, my life is instrumental in producing Kingdom people in the next generation, for every knee will bow to God, not Jim, so nothing is really about me. It is all about Him.
No, this is not how I planned it. But if at the evening of my life I can look back and honestly say that I acted justly, loved mercy and walked humbly with my God, I know I will hear Him say, “Well Done.” And that IS the way I planned it.