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Change of plans

May 15, 2017

A few months back I purchased a throw pillow that reads, “Sometimes our plans don’t work out because God has better ones.” It seemed a fitting motto for my life, which has taken directions I never would have imagined as a college student majoring in Latin American Studies fifteen years ago. Had someone told me I would be living in Mexico, Brazil, or Argentina by 2017, I would have eagerly believed them and anxiously awaited my future abroad.

Had someone told me, on the other hand, that by 2017 I would be a divorced mother teaching math in Montana, I would have been taken aback–and maybe even cried. What would I use my foreign language skills for? Why would I be teaching math? How on earth would I take care of two children on my own when I wasn’t even sure I wanted children?

As I drove across Interstate 90 last night between Billings and Livingston, where my boyfriend resides, I reflected back in wonder at the unexpected twists and turns my life has taken. Passing the Crazy Mountains, still capped in white above the greening prairie below, I recalled my first trip across Montana in 2003, when I hitched a ride to Seattle with several students from the University of Washington who had volunteered on the same construction project in Lame Deer as I had. At the time, I had never before seen snow-capped mountains or driven across mile-high passes; I remember thinking that the Continental Divide between Whitehall and Butte resembled the set of Indiana Jones in MGM Studios because I had only seen such massive boulders as replicas back east.

Now I drive past the Crazies several times a month and, although I am still awed by Montana’s magnificent beauty, it is no longer a novelty but rather home.

Had someone told me the mere facts of my current life over a decade ago, I would have tried to change it–but had they told me the feelings I would enjoy (and suffer) and the incredible growth I would experience, I would have left God’s plan well enough alone. I never would have guessed that I would make my difference in the world in the middle of Montana, but this is where God wanted me, and I know this to be true because I feel an indescribable sense of belonging and purpose in this place even though I have no family history here and no childhood memories that connect to any state west of Ohio.

And this is why God doesn’t allow us to see into the future: because we can’t predict the ways in which either the expected or the unexpected will shape us and change us. Just like no mathematical model can perfectly predict climate change because there are simply too many variables to consider, our non-omniscient human minds could never hope to map out our own futures and know that we would be sending ourselves down a path of fulfillment.

I ended up in Montana because I acted on a gut feeling to take a job teaching math on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. I have no doubt that “gut” feeling was, in fact, the Holy Spirit whispering in my ear to make the move out west and abandon my personal dreams of living abroad. Had I taken an overseas job with the federal government (I was, in fact, offered one), I would have made great friends, increased my language fluency, and thoroughly enjoyed South American music and cuisine–but those are all personal pleasures that wouldn’t have satisfied my core desire to contribute something significant and positive to the world. In fact, it likely would have done just the opposite because the information I would have been gathering would have been out of my hands and in the control of the federal government, which would have done God knows what with it (and God surely knew, which is why He gave me the gut feeling to decline the NSA job and accept the teaching job).

Now that I have met a man who shares the unique blend of passions and interests that I have–and, most importantly, a faith in the same God–I am even more convinced that I am right where I am supposed to be.

The moral of the story is to twofold: for one, have faith that the direction your life is taking will lead to fulfillment even if you can’t imagine it now. Believe me, I was struggling mightily a year and a half ago when I was newly divorced and wondering what the hell I was going to do in Billings, MT, for the next 16 years while my girls went through school (because I wasn’t going to move them away from their dad). But I maintained my faith and my prayers, and almost magically, a position at the university was offered to me despite not having the full credentials (yet) for a tenure-track position. And somehow, I’ve managed to both perform well in my position and maintain quality time with my girls, who have taught me about the tattoo I got on my back before they were even a thought in my mind: “The greatest of these is love.” Oh, what we think we know before we have children!

Second, learn to trust your gut. I believe this comes along with prayer, because my most convincing gut feelings have come when I’ve first taken the time to pray earnestly about my situation, as I did during and after my divorce. The most helpful prayers for me have not been of the form, “Please God, let x happen,” but rather, “God, help me to sense your will and have the strength to follow it.” I sensed, I followed, and I honestly don’t think I could be happier, especially not if life had gone according to my own plan.


One Comment
  1. Great inspiration for following your gut even if doesn’t seem logical!

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