Wednesday 4.20.11 Lenten Reflection by Michelle Mathia

Michelle Mathia worships at the West campus of The Church of the Resurrection, and is an assistant small group leader there. She joined the church in 2001.

Jeremiah 29:11: “I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.”
Isaiah 55:8-9: “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts” says the Lord. “And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so too are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
Psalm 84:11: “For the Lord God is a sun and a shield. The Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
 
Six years ago we had outgrown our house. It was time to build our “dream home.” We wanted more space, but our friends also influenced us. Our entire social circle had grand homes in grand neighborhoods. We felt like the only ones still camped out in our starter home. We sold it, moved to a rental, and embarked on building a home. I would lie awake and fantasize about my new house. I dreamed of driving through my fancy neighborhood to my fancy home. I planned dinner parties, and pictured the friends we would invite. Our house would be a sign we had arrived. In my fantasies, I felt happy, complete, full of joy. I would finally measure up. I had a proud sense of wellbeing.
 
Our dream home quickly ran into roadblocks and complications. We pushed forward, overcoming obstacles. We saw many of these victories as God at work, paving the way. I so wanted this house to be a reality. I prayed feverishly for God to bring my dream to fruition, to keep opening new doors for each one that closed.
 
I had only recently begun a more committed pursuit of God. So, as I prayed feverishly for this house, I was also asking God to transform me. “Lord,” I prayed, “make me who you created me to be…use me for Your purposes…change me…remove from me all that is in your way…rid me of anything that stifles your light…create in me a new person.”

It hit me one day that God was really trying to answer these prayers. God was not paving the way to our dream home. The “victories” were not answers to prayer, but the result of our determination to get what we wanted. I realized this house was my agenda, and the desire for it was driven by the very things I was asking God to remove from me. I had the perfect plan, and wanted God to get on board. But God wanted me to get on board with his plan.
 
When I first sensed this house was not God’s plan for us, I was angry. We had worked very hard. We were entitled to the same things our friends had. I felt that my new commitment to the Lord and all that I had put into my spiritual life should be rewarded somehow.
 
Psalm 84:11, Isaiah 55:8-9, and Jeremiah 29:11 had always resonated with me. Now, as I stewed in my frustration and sense of entitlement, these Bible passages led to a revelation. I saw that if God asks me to turn away from one pursuit it is because he wants to give me something better. I realized that if I always pursue my best plans, I can miss out on God’s best for me. I came to trust that God could give me all I longed for in my “house” fantasies, but he had other ways to do this. Deep down I knew a big house wouldn’t really fulfill my desires. I suffered from the disease of “never enough.” God was more eager to do a restoration job in my soul than to build a new house. I came to see what God already knew—as long as greed, status-seeking, discontent, coveting, self-focus, and seeking value through human approval lived in my soul, no house would bring me happiness and fulfillment. I would be in a fabulous house with my soul full of life-stealing character traits.

We decided to lay the house at the altar and walk away. Next we paid off all our debt. Then we pursued a mortgage within the guidelines of Christian financial advisors. We committed to give God our “firstfruits,” the full tithe, rather than whatever was left over after paying for our lifestyle, to live by God’s financial principals and not our own. With a new price range set, we began the search for our next home. This was a time of heavy pruning for me, as I began to let God answer those earlier prayers. I submitted to the process, and God used this time to pull out many stubborn traits that needed to go.

When we found our current home, I knew almost immediately it was in God’s plan. It could not have been further from the home I had dreamed aesthetically. Not one material matched my taste or was even remotely attractive to me. As I looked around, I almost had to laugh. For the first time, it did not matter! The floor plan was perfect for our family. More important, I could feel God’s hand all over this house. I actually felt content. This house was enough. This showed a huge transformation! Over our four years here, the blessings, depth and richness that have been added to my life are impossible to capture in words.

Last summer, for kicks, we drove through our “dream home” neighborhood. I was very happy in our home, acutely aware of the life God had given us, but I wondered if I might feel twinges of the jealousy and coveting God had wrestled out of me. But driving through the neighborhood had the opposite effect. Nothing about that lifestyle drew me any longer. It just called up feelings of stress and pressure to keep up. My husband said, “We were so focused on creating the perfect house, when God wanted to give us a home.” When I gave up my dream, I gained a full, prosperous, rich life. I have a home full of God’s love, and a community where I can live out my faith with other believers who know me (the person God created me to be, not the person I wanted others to think I was). All of this after I let go of my dream and released my plans. I had to go where God was pointing me in order to experience God’s best for me.
 
Many people cling to a plan, a dream that “just has to come true.” My heart was set on that house. But it could be a baby, a mate, a more prestigious job, more money, a better body, or an achievement that brings status or recognition. Dreams and plans aren’t inherently bad, of course. But to believe that my plans are better for me than God’s blocks God’s best every time. Many times over the last four years I have felt the tug to pursue some of these things. If I begin to feel God gently pulling me in a different direction, I at first resist, and hold tightly to my plan. But remembering the amazing life I gained by letting go, I regain the grace to once again say “yes” to His will, and “no” to mine.

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