Unexpected Paths

I waved goodbye to my son as he cheerfully called and waved goodbye to me, relieved that he seemed happy despite my refusal to take him with me as I went running. I am not a good or even regular runner, but I do appreciate the time to be still in my mind even as my body moves, and to think and pray. I don’t take music with me, and so, as I ran, all I could hear was the regular beat of my steps on the ground, my own breathing and the occasional car going by. The air was a perfect temperature and the sky filled with early evening light and slight damp from the rain that stopped just before I left home. I could smell the wood smoke from the fires that just about everyone in my part of New Zealand relies on for warmth and, as I ran past his house, I waved to a neighbour who was outside preparing for a “bunny drive” (pest control for a local farmer). The moments were both calm and pleasurable but also surreal. My husband and I have had many “how did I get here?” moments over the last few months as we have looked at our lives and how far the reality of our lives is from anything we could have planned or expected. But, despite that surreal feeling, we feel at home in our rural New Zealand community in a way we haven’t felt for years, not even in other parts of New Zealand.

At different times we have made plans for our lives. Sometimes those plans have worked out largely as we envisioned but more often the reality and the final outcome have been vastly different from what we originally anticipated. I’ve reached a point of almost thinking there is no point in us having 5, 10 or 20 year plans for our lives as God has led us on so many unexpected paths, all of which have been so much better than anything we could have planned.

As I ran, my mind turned to the sermon our pastor had given in church that morning. The sermon was based on Acts 13: 1 – 12, and I was struck particularly by two points that our pastor made. First, that perhaps we are focusing on the wrong thing if our primary concern is on wondering what God’s will is for our lives (which is not to say that isn’t important) – our primary focus should be on seeking Him first. Second, that we need to be open to prompting by the Holy Spirit, just as the believers in Antioch were (this is most apparent in Acts 13: 2-3 which says that the Holy Spirit directed that Barnabas and Saul should be set apart for the work to which God called them and that believers then laid hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them off, after praying and fasting). The reality behind these points really hit home for me in my “how did we got here” musings. God’s directing of our lives has not been as we might have anticipated but, as we have sought Him (often imperfectly) and been open to His leading, He has directed us and our steps.

“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16: 9

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