I am really delighted to give you this post from a guest blogger, Rachel. I’d love to tell you all about her, but I’d end up gushing and she wouldn’t like that. So just a brief intro: Rachel is married to a pastor and they planted a church in Central London about four years ago. They have four children, aged 6yrs, 5yrs, 3yrs and 8 months. When she talks, I listen, so if I were you I’d read this and take note! Thank you Rachel!
I was on the way to school recently when my eldest daughter realised she had left something at home. She had wanted to take it in to show the class. I explained that we couldn’t go back or we’d be late. I could bring it in when I picked her up later, ready for tomorrow. She wasn’t satisfied. Her frustration grew and she became more and more upset. At the same time my calm, controlled voice gradually became more and more frustrated. I started to snap remarks like: ‘There’s nothing I can do, so there’s no point crying about it,’ and ‘I can’t change what has happened, we need to move on.’
About half an hour later, on my way back from school, I found myself dwelling on something that had happened at the school gate. I’d had a conversation I was frustrated about, I wished I had said something different. I was going over and over it in my mind, thinking about what I should have said and how I wished I could turn back time. And then I realised. I was doing exactly what my daughter had been doing earlier. I wasn’t crying and sticking out my bottom lip, but I was letting the situation take over my thoughts and control my emotions. And in my mind, I was asking for the impossible. To turn back time.
That situation has highlighted something for me. I’ve realised that recently I have often been frustrated about the relatively small practicalities of my day – whether I have made the right decisions and how plans have worked out. It might be regret over how a conversation went. Or it might be that I question how I decided to spend the morning with my children and whether it was the best thing to do. Did I make the right call in going to that playgroup, or should I have had a quiet morning at home, perhaps even attempted some housework. I might try to meet up with a friend and it doesn’t work out, so then I rebuke myself that I should have just tried to see someone else all along.
There’s no doubt that there is a place for good planning, and that we can learn from our mistakes. There is of course a place for prayerful reflection on our use of time. But I know that for me, once decisions have been made and the day is underway, there can be unhelpful thoughts that just niggle in my mind all day as I replay situations. I can feel like I’ve just made a series of bad decisions. It also means I often miss out on actually making the most of the situation I’m in. I’m basically just dwelling on the past.
Thankfully all of this thinking (!) has also taken me outside of my own thoughts and there are a couple of things I have been trying to remember (which are basically the same thing). There is one Bible verse that has been particularly helpful:
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
Firstly, God is in control. This is a simple truth that I know in my head, but clearly it doesn’t always affect how I view what has happened to me in my day. But I need to remember that from the moment I wake up God knows what is going to happen. He knows the way I’m going to walk and who I’m going to meet and what they want to talk about. He knows how a well-planned family activity is going to turn out. He knows who is going to stick to an arrangement to meet up or who is going to be in when I knock or call.
Secondly, I’m not in control. When it feels like my plan for the day has gone wrong, it just reveals that I’m clearly not in control. It should humble me. God has a plan and this is it. He has established my steps. Just like my daughter couldn’t go home and get her foam flowers, I can’t go back and change the past, this is where God wants me to be. Move on! I need to have confidence in God’s plan, not my own.
What does all this mean for my day?
I’ve found it’s helped me to enjoy the day more! I’ve been trying to specifically commit the day to God and express to Him in prayer that I know he is in control. This has helped me to then naturally go on and ask him to use my day for his glory, and specifically to use me the way he wants, in the situations he has planned.
It helps when things go ‘wrong’ as the truth that God is in control is already on my mind. When I start to get frustrated by the way things are turning out, I try to turn my niggling thoughts into prayer, and this quickly brings me back to the simple truth again.
As I’ve prayed these prayers more often I’ve seen more answers (funny that)! I’ve ‘bumped’ into people I have wanted to see for ages. I’ve enjoyed reading a book with my son at home when I was supposed to be meeting a friend that morning who didn’t show.
As I’ve thought through this one little area of my everyday life, I’ve been reminded again that when I turn my thoughts away from myself and onto God, he humbles me and gives me many reasons to thank Him.
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