Woody Allen said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” I am a planner through and through. I wake up every day beginning to think of a daily agenda and set goals that I wish to accomplish. If I want a day off, I have to plan not to have a plan. What some might call controlling I would call organized. At the young age of fourteen, I had a plan. I had my life figured out and knew what I wanted and when I wanted it. I bet God laughed at my plans that day. I laugh now when I think of those plans.
The agenda for my life was a series of accomplishments I somehow thought would lead to a satisfying life. Accomplishments like graduating with honors, playing collegiate soccer, living in Colorado. It was all about what I wanted for my life and I wasn’t going to yield that to anyone; not even God.
Over the course of the next several years, every plan I made was foiled. I tore my ACL twice in one year preventing me from playing soccer. My family moved away from Colorado. My relationships failed. For one reason or another, all of my plans didn’t work out leaving me with two options: fight or surrender.
“The Necklace” is a short story by Guy de Maupassant in which the main character, Mathilda, borrows a necklace from wealthy friend in order to keep up appearances. To her dismay, Mathilda loses the jewel within the necklace. She and her husband decide to buy a jewel to replace it and go through a financial crisis due to the expense. Years later, Mathilda meets her friend again and come to learn that the original jewel was a costume jewel that she replaced with genuine stones.
I wonder how Mathilda’s friend felt at learning the gems were real. She gave her necklace away and when it was returned it was infinitely more valuable.
My plans are much like that necklace. I had them to “keep up with appearances.” Yes, my plans were ruined. They were spoiled. Did it discourage me? Absolutely. I wanted so badly to play varsity soccer in high school and go on to play in college. I wanted to forever live near the mountains. However, once I finally gave my plans away and relinquished my control, they were returned to me infinitely more precious and infinitely more valuable.
Some call this action obedience. Some call it trust. Some call it faith. I call it the hardest lesson I ever learned. The act of surrendering the things I held most dear felt like ripping a band-aid off of a cut or pouring hydrogen peroxide on an infected wound. It hurts, burns and stings, perhaps for a long time, but it’s the only way to let the wound heal.
Growing up, my family had a playset in the backyard built of wood. One day, I was climbing on some of the wooden planks and got a splinter in my foot. My mother had to use a needle to pull some skin away in order to pull the splinter out. I remember screaming, “You’re killing me! You’re killing me!” to try and get her to stop because the pain was so bad. I would rather have the pain of the splinter than go through the pain of getting it removed. In reality, if my mom would have left the splinter, it would have done far worse damage to me.
My plans were my splinter and getting it removed was painful but it would have done far worse damage to my life to leave them intact. As Graham Kendrick said, “All I once held dear/ built my life upon/ all this world reveres/ and wars to own/ all I once thought gain/ I have counted loss/ spent and worthless now/ compared to this.” This is what Paul speaks of in Philippians. This captures the painfully sweet essence of surrender. It is the irony of giving up everything in order to gain everything.
Elizabeth Elliott said, “I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what he is up to.” Surrender is hard. It is painful. It is disappointing. But trading in the necklace of fake gems for genuine stones brings far more value.