If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. The more I reflect on this trite expression the more I have to laugh along with it because of how true it has proven to be in my life. Nothing is right now as I thought it would be three years ago.
I never thought I’d have fallen in love with Princeton the way I did. I thought my time there would be good but temporary, and in a sense it was temporary; but in the same way that a cocoon is temporary for a caterpillar who is surprised to find himself completely transformed afterward. My time in Princeton opened my eyes to so much of the world— and so much of myself—that I had only ever imagined. It has left me forever changed and it will always remain a sacred place for me.
I remember my first choir rehearsal at Westminster. All the freshmen were ushered into the chapel— which, at that point in my life, was just a building. Then we took our first breath together and began to sing. The music filled the room and my heart, and I couldn’t help but cry as I listened to this incredible sound that was so much bigger than me. And I thought, “I can’t believe I’m here, I can’t believe I’m a part of this”.
Over the next four years it became a home to me. I felt safe to really be who I was, even as I was discovering who I was. I felt alive and energized and challenged and encouraged and completely enriched. I felt like Dorothy in Oz. This place was where I belonged.
Another thing I never, and I mean NEVER thought would happen, was falling in love with a classical musician (much less anyone from New Jersey!) During my freshman year, a friend from home asked me, “What if you’re going there to meet your husband?” I reassured her by saying “this is not the place to find a husband.” My school had been endearingly nicknamed West”Spinster” Choir College by the minions of frustrated, single women who attend there, and it was well known that if he goes to Westminster, he’s not dateable. God loves to surprise us.
He frustrated my plan of returning to the South and marrying back into the South, but it didn’t happen in one instance. It happened slowly, over time, and with lots of tenderness and kindness. Just as He lead the Israelites to the Promised Land one day at a time, He lead me. And He always provided what I needed as He slowly stripped me of everything I knew and thought I knew— with fresh bread from Heaven He fed me day by day, even when I was confused and hurting, in transition from the old to the new.
“I would empty my soul of the dreams that have gathered in me,
I would beat with Your heart as it beats
I would follow Your soul as it leads”.
Once before when I quoted this poem in reference to my relationship with God, a friend of mine said it sounded cruel. Why would God expect one to follow His dreams over their own? Two years after that conversation, I feel that I could answer his question more completely. If I had not let God do His work on me, lead me to Princeton, keep me there against my will at times, and undo my future plans, I would not be happy right now. I would not have really come alive, discovered my gifts, understand myself, and know my calling. I would not be in a relationship that allows me to be all that I truly am without being misunderstood. If God had not led me where I at first did not want to go, I would not be who I was always meant to be.
And tomorrow I am moving to Texas. Again I find myself going in a direction I never would have thought. Again I find myself struggling with the concept of leaving the place and the people that I love and jumping head first into the unknown. But I only have to remember what God has done before and what He has promised to do again: to lead me closer to Himself with each step that I follow Him—where I will ultimately be the most satisfied, the most free, the most fulfilled— in the center of His will!
To You I give my life
Not just the parts I want to
To You I sacrifice
These dreams that I hold onto
Because Your thoughts are higher than mine
Your words are deeper than mine
Your love is stronger than mine
This is no sacrifice: Here’s my life.