Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Path We Take Is Not the Path We Planned

I am considerably blessed.  I married to a wonderful woman, my parents (and hers) continue to support us financially as we struggle to make ends meet, we are both employed as teachers, and I have a great network of encouraging friends.  It is a good life, and because of this what I am going to be writing about may sound irrational and, in a word, ungrateful.  So please, do not get me wrong: I am eternally grateful to my Creator for all of the wonderful gifts He has bestowed upon me.

Alas, more and more, I find myself longing.  Longing for something that had once been a major part of my life.  So major, in fact, that it was my college major: history.  I studied Education and History in college and after graduation (and marriage) received a call to teach 7th Grade and Science at a Lutheran school.  Again, I am very thankful for this opportunity; before I accepted the call I had been all set to begin working for a lawn care company.  Science has proven to be an interesting topic and I, personally, have probably learned more than the students.  However, the pull of my first academic love has begun dragging me back to the confines of scholarly thought.  I find myself spending free time (and some time that should be spent working) pouring over books and articles relating to historical topics that interest me.  I am also researching graduate schools and Masters programs so that I can continue to learn and study History in a structured manner.  I am even writing outlines for perspective papers and articles and laying out research plans.

Being able to observe this phenomena taking place in my life has led me to reflect on long term goals people set for themselves.  Most people go into college with at least some idea of what they want to achieve and do once they obtain their degree.  For some of us, that is to make a living in a career in the field we studied; a field that we chose because we enjoyed it, and  because of our enjoyment make work seem less like actual work.  Some people are fortunate to be offered jobs in their respective areas of study or are able to go one to graduate school right away.  The rest of us, however, have a different plan laid out by God, a plan that we do not always understand.

God tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (ESV Translation).  We think that we have our lives all figured out.  We have a plan, a general idea of how we are going to achieve that plan, and a basic notion of how long achievement will take.  However, we very often do not consider the plans and paths Almighty God wants us to take.  We may think we have the perfect formula for success, but God looks down with supreme and unimaginable perfection and guides us on an alternate path.  We may be angry and confused at first, but if we are patient we will soon see God's reasoning behind his divine guidance.

In my life, I have always known that I liked, even loved, studying history.  In the 3rd Grade, I read our Social Studies textbook during silent reading and finished it half-way through the school year.  There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to pursue a career teaching, researching, and constantly learning about the past.  After five studious years, countless hours of historical research, and dozens of papers about a variety of historical topics, I am a Science teacher.  Many people would get discouraged, perhaps accept their new position, and forget about their goals.  I, however, see this as an alternate path laid out for me by God.  I still feel a very strong urge to study history, a stronger urge than I have ever felt.  It is my belief that God led me down this path to refurbish a flame inside of me.  While being able to study and learn about history every day in college, I became less thankful for the opportunity to do so.  Recently, my increased longing for a history classroom has made me much more appreciative of the chances I had and the things I learned.  It has also created in me a stronger desire to work, write, and study than I ever had as an undergraduate.

As Robert Burns famously wrote, "The best laid of plans of mice and men often go awry."  I had planned to teach history and perhaps start graduate school within a year of starting my teaching career.  Having been away from history, I now am able to see how rash a decision this would have been.  Even though I am looking at graduate schools now, I do not plan on enrolling in one for another two years, during my third year of teaching.  God has given me the opportunity to step back and prioritize my life, something I was not doing before.

I believe that when we pray and ask God for things, He gives one of three answers: yes, no, or not yet.  For a long time I felt like God's answer to my prayer for a career in history was a "yes."  I was studying history, writing papers, and many other things perspective historians do in college.  But then I did not get a call to teach history; for almost 3 months I did not get a call to teach anything, and when I finally did it was to teach Science.  I began to feel like God's answer was "no."  But God, in His grace, has shown me that His answer was never "no," but rather "not yet."  I still feel a strong pull to history because that is what I feel God has planned for me.  It was just not the path I had laid out for myself.  I have a better and heavenly guide.


  1. If you're going to quote Burns, at least quote him in the dialect which was his only real distinguishing point. "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men/Gang aft agley."

    Here's a thought. Sure, God says "not yet". But how long does "not yet" have to go on before it becomes "no"? How do we distinguish between a 30-year-old "no" and a 30-year-old "not yet"?

  2. Ask Abraham, who did not have the son he was promised until he was 100.