This year I wrote a 17 chapter compilation about when God’s plans differ from our own. I detailed 17 stories of surrendering to God’s will instead of my own. In writing my first real attempt at a book, I thought I’d learned the lesson. Over and over, 17 distinct times, I’d learned that we have to lay down our lives, surrender our expectations, and seek God’s will over our own. And yet…
Despite my reflections on this concept, I still struggle with the reality of it on a daily basis. I wrestle with God, list out the ways he hasn’t met my expectations and end up feeling frustrated and exasperated. In the process, I miss the big picture. I miss all the ways he’s blessed me and affirmed who he is and who I am. I became so fixated on the deviation from the plans I had, that I often missed the beauty of where I was.
One year ago I moved to California. When people ask me why, I can list out a bevy of reasons including being closer to family, wanting to try a new city while I’m young and unattached, financial reasons, and the list goes on. But the reality is, I moved here because God made it abundantly clear that this is where he wants me. So I took the plunge. I left New York, a city that had always been my dream, and moved to Los Angeles, where the extent of my plans pretty much included visiting the beach as often as possible and writing a lot.
It was an act of faith, trusting that God’s plan was surely better than even my lifelong dream of working in fashion in New York. But the problem was my faith quickly turned into pride. “I’ve given up so much for God,” I thought. (Laughable.) I somehow internally decided that he owed me for my obedience; that I’d earned favor and therefor could hold him up to lofty expectations that I hadn’t even really defined. And that perspective has changed everything.
This year has been filled with blessings that are beyond what anyone could hope for in their first year in a huge, unknown city and are so clearly the work of God. He provided me with a job that I am passionate about and gives me immense opportunity for growth. I’ve been surrounded by a community that feels like God handpicked it for me. They call me higher, they make me laugh and they point me back to Jesus in every interaction. I was able to purchase a car I’d dreamed about owning since I was 16 and move into a stunning apartment in Beverly Hills with my best friend of 9 years. I can go to the beach whenever I want, am learning to surf and wrote my first draft of a real book. And that is just a portion of the list. In every way, he has affirmed that this is where he wants me and has blessed my move. And yet…
There are days where I still ask, “Are you sure God? Are you sure that this is where I’m supposed to be?”
There are days where LA makes me feel like a fish out of water. There are days I say that something is missing and point out areas where God hasn’t come through in the exact way I thought he would. It’s ungrateful at best, if not completely self-centered. And it’s all because somewhere along the way, my perspective shifted away from one of gratitude and awe and wonder of a God who loves me so desperately and grandly dreams up plans for me. Instead I became entitled and at times, resentful. If I hadn’t altered my perspective in this way, the last year could have held immeasurably more joy and praise on my part.
Praise God that he isn’t the type to punish my ungrateful behavior by withholding blessings. He is the type that romances me, whether or not I love him back that day. He is the kind of God who pursues us and blesses us, even when we turn away, arms crossed. He is kind and he is gentle – another lesson I learn over and over. And the moment I turn around and open my arms, he’s waiting. No anger. No punishment. No earning his favor. He’s always waiting, always full of forgiveness, mercy and joy over his children.
Maybe you needed to hear that too – God’s not mad or waiting to strike you with a lightning bolt. That’s simply not who he is. He loves you. Period. End of story.
The part that really gets me about shifting my perspective to one of praise, is that while God doesn’t need my praise, giving it to him actually blesses me. It allows me to align myself with him, see his goodness everywhere I look and live my life to the fullest, because praising God is what we were designed for.
As I enter into my 23rd year and simultaneously my second year in California, I am changing my own narrative. I want to be someone who sees God in all the blessings, but also in the little moments. I want to glimpse his glory, because it’s always there. I just have to open my eyes and my heart to see it.