This summer I took my nephews on a road trip. The night before, I meticulously planned the journey and we set off early the next day. Ten minutes into the drive, we came to a grinding halt as traffic was at a standstill, following an accident. I quickly circled back and asked my nephew to find another way. He immediately tapped into his smartphone, found a new route and we eventually reached our destination.
I was reminded of this journey when my nephew recently deliberated whether God had a plan for us. If God had a plan, did that mean we were programmed to follow a pre-determined course with no responsibility for our decisions or actions? Or if we were masters of our destiny, what role did God play?
I considered the question carefully. There were persuasive arguments on either side but I realised the answer didn’t lie in scholarly debate, but in personal experience. I began by using the analogy of the road trip and compared God to a personal GPS, navigating our path through challenges, towards a destination of our choice. However, even as I related the story, I knew my theory was flawed. After all, although God had played a phenomenal role in helping me accomplish many of my goals, He had also created openings I wouldn’t have dared to pursue, without His unsolicited interventions.
I remembered the confidence and self-belief of my youth and the expectation that life would be a great adventure, where I would be the “captain of my soul and master of my fate”(William Ernest Henley). Subsequently, time proved me wrong and despite herculean efforts on my part, I failed to accomplish all I hoped to achieve and endured failure and disappointment. However, I also noticed coincidences and synchronicity often derailed my plans and changed the direction of my life, leading me to experience greater meaning and fulfilment than I originally anticipated. I came to recognise these interventions as the guidance of God.
The fact that God took such an interest in my life excited me and proved to be a significant turning point in my faith. As I grew closer to God and began to actively seek His guidance on all matters, I recognised my fallibility and propensity to make decisions I later regretted. As God knew me better than I knew myself and always acted in my best interests, I could trust Him and rely on Him to guide me. This didn’t mean I had to curb my ambitions and wear sackcloth and ashes. To the contrary, it unleashed an unprecedented determination to aspire, combined with an absolute conviction that the impossible was possible. After all, I was in partnership with God!
So I told my nephew, that it wasn’t a binary decision between two clear choices – either my plan or God’s plan. The truth of the matter was that there was only one plan – a plan to ensure I realised my potential and lived a life of meaning and fulfilment.