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Book Jacket

0891126414
Trade Paperback
244 pages
Mar 2010
Leafwood Publishing

The Plan A Woman in a Plan B World

by Debbie Taylor Williams

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt

Excerpt:

The realities of Godís truths keep me in his plan and
guard me from dangerous imaginings.

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever
is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any
excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Philippians 4:8

Perhaps there is no greater saboteur of Christís presence in our lives than our fanciful thoughts about how we wish things were. What harm can come from daydreaming about a man other than our spouse or wishing our child was a genius or star athlete? What harm is there in imagining a house full of children if we are unable to conceive or imagining weíre the head of a corporation if weíve been told weíre not qualified for any more promotions? Like land mines, our imaginations can be harmful if we donít weigh them against reality and the truth of Godís Word.

Imagination can take many forms and range from the most innocent, such as seeing the shape of a horse or duck in cloud formations, to the most dangerous and unfounded speculations. Consider the following examples of things we might imagine. Place a check mark beside those you or someone you know have entertained:

  • An acquaintance doesnít acknowledge you, and you imagine he or she slighted you rather than simply didnít see you.
  • You imagine people at church are friendly to everyone but you. You stop going to church because you imagine theyíre cliquish.
  • After months of a bumpy marriage, you imagine your husbandís late nights are because heís having an affair, although you have no proof. You become accusatory and cold.
  • You imagine your job is never going to pay you what youíre worth, so you might as well get by with doing as little as possible.
  • You imagine how itíll appear if you donít shop where your friends do, so you spend money you donít have and go into debt.
  • You imagine you can hold a grudge against someone and it wonít affect your relationship with God.
  • You imagine that no harm will come of your thoughts about someone other than your husband.

 

That last one, entertaining thoughts of a man other than her husband, nearly destroyed my friend and sister in Christ, Mary. Her honesty prompts us to consider if there are any imagination land mines we should disarm rather than leaving them lying dangerously in our minds. Hereís her story:

Did you ever sing this little song when you were a child?

Oh, be careful little ears what you hear,
Oh, be careful little ears what you hear,
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love,
So be careful little ears what you hear.

The truth about this song is that it isnít just for children. Itís true for anyone of any age. Following is what I heard and imagined that nearly destroyed my life and family.

At age thirty-seven I gave my life to Jesus Christ and was baptized. I truly loved Jesus. For the next twelve years, I worked at my Christian faith. I taught Vacation Bible School and Sunday school; played the organ for a church; and was a devoted and respected mother, wife, and community member. Then the picture-perfect scenario became muddy.

A person who intrigued me began telling me things I liked to hear, such as . . .

†ďYour husband doesnít understand you.Ē (My imagination said, Someone understands me!)

ďWe would make a good team.Ē (My imagination said, Iím needed.)

ďI need your help.Ē (My imagination rang out, He wants me. Iíll rescue him.)

ďLetís meet at 10:30.Ē (I imagined excitement and adventure.)

ďIíll keep you warm in winter and cool in summer.Ē (I envisioned intimacy.)

Fidelity, truthfulness, integrity, honesty, nobility, and faithfulness didnít seem to matter as I let my imagination run wild with thoughts about this man and how I wanted more for me. Two friends approached me, warning me of the trap I was about to fall into, but I turned a deaf ear to them. I fell for the lie. Proverbs 14:12 says it best: ďThere is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to
deathĒ (NIV).

Where was God during this time? Oh, I knew he was there. I just instructed him to look the other way and not to bother me while I was doing all this great stuff for me.

Pursuing my longed-for independence, I listened to what I wanted and to what I thought I needed and deserved. My desires resulted in hatred, dissension, shame, disappointment, dismay, sorrow, broken dreams, tears, and divorce.

I listened to the wrong message. The devil chewed me up and spit me out. When I awoke from my nightmare, I realized my horrible mistake. Unbearable guilt and judgment consumed me. I couldnít believe what Iíd done to myself and to my family.

The Source of Our Vain Imaginings

From where do such imaginings come? Although weíd like to say, ďThe devil made me do it,Ē our sinful nature is the reason we give in to temptations rather than stand against them. In other words, if we were as pure as Jesus is, our imaginations wouldnít be fertile soil for Satan.

James 1:13Ė14 tells us: ďLet no one say when he is tempted, ĎI am being tempted by Godí; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.Ē

As believers we may be reluctant to agree with James. For years I resisted the truth he spoke. I didnít think of myself as lustful. However, I wrongfully limited that word to the context of sexual lust outside of marriage. When I studied the verse, I learned that lust has a far bigger context than sexual connotations. It can include any desire for what is forbidden. With the fuller meaning in mind, I was able to see how lust can encompass any longing or desire imaginable. Enter Satan. When he tempts us, deep-seated lusts of which we may not be aware can become land mines if weíre not careful to clear them.

Why would God allow Satan to roam the earth (Job 1:7) seeking someone to tempt and devour (1 Pet. 5:8)? Although I donít have all the answers, the Scriptures explain that in the testing of our faith, we become stronger (James 1:2Ė4; 1 Pet. 1:6Ė7). God doesnít permit us to be tempted because he wants us to fail or fall but rather so he can prove Christís sufficiency in us. Temptations reveal areas where we need Godís finishing touch. Untested, we remain like children. However, when we see our sin nature as God sees it, weíll gasp in shame, repent, and seek Christís holiness and infilling. This is the process of sanctification whereby we grow in the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rejecting Figments of Your Imagination

Once we understand our imaginations for what they are, we can stand against† the dangers they represent. We can clear our minds of destructive imaginings much like Jamba clears minefields. What are some figments of our imagination we should guard against? In addition to the ones mentioned at the beginning of our chapter, consider the following:

  • Imagining that Godís calling for our lives isnít good.
  • Imagining that there are many ways to get to heaven, not just through Christ.
  • Imagining that worldly pursuits are more important than a close walk with God.

 

Letís consider Queen Esther and how she imagined she could avoid Godís calling.

Figment of Your Imagination 1: Iíll Be Happier If I Avoid Godís Calling

Esther was a Jewish orphan who became a Persian queen. Certainly it was not her Plan A to be orphaned. Nor was it likely to have been her Plan A to be taken into a kingís harem. But she was, and the king chose her as his wife and queen.

Following her cousin Mordecaiís advice, Esther didnít reveal to her husband, the king, that she was Jewish. However, when a political mandate was issued to destroy the Jews, Mordecai sent Esther a message urging her to go the king and plead for mercy for the Jews. Again, this was not Estherís Plan A. She wanted no part of the plan and sent word to Mordecai explaining the fault in it. She hadnít been summoned by the king for a full month now, and no oneónot even the queenócould enter the kingís presence uninvited without risking death.

Esther imagined she was not part of the problem or its solution. But this was false. Her temptation to avoid Godís plan for her life was rooted in naÔvetť and self-preservation.

Mordecai challenged Estherís supposition: ďDo not imagine that you in the kingís palace can escape any more than all the JewsĒ (Esther 4:13). He confronted Esther with the reality that she, too, would die if she didnít act. Not only would she die, but she would miss the moment for which God had prepared her.

Although Esther was a godly woman, a land mine of self lay below the topsoil of her beautiful exterior. Might that be said of us too? Even as we attempt to live godly lives, sometimes Godís plans for us expose self-centered imaginations.

Confronted with the truth, Esther disarmed her false imaginings and responded to Godís will for her life. We have this same opportunity. When we find ourselves in Plan B, itís tempting to conjure false notions. We may not be in our dream marriage, so we daydream or imagine what it would be like to be married to another man. If weíre single, we may daydream what it would be like to be married. A longtime friend
whom I greatly admire, JoAnn Dealey, speaks wisely on this subject:

Iíve been divorced for twenty years, but it wasnít until my last child left home that I became acutely aware of how alone I am. In a churched world, I feel like thereís a little sign on my back that reads, ďSomething is really wrong here. Why didnít she get married again? Must be something big.Ē

I feel somewhat vindicated by the apostle Paul, who told us to stay as we are (1 Cor. 7:26), but I canít help but notice that the animals went in to the ark two by two.

One Sunday a man sitting in the row in front of me put his arm around his wife and gave her a look. No words were spoken, but they exchanged a lifetime of understanding right in front of me. I didnít get the sense that everything between them had been easy. It was better than that. I felt a peace from them that they had clearly decided to do it Godís way.

Thatís something Iíll never have, I said to myself.

When I really get on a roll, I imagine the perfect man sitting in the empty chair beside me in church. He is a godly man who knows me completely, puts my needs before his on all occasions, and thinks Iím a goddess. Heís an attentive father, a generous provider, and a contributor to the well-being of mankind. Oh, and heís gorgeous, brilliant, the most popular guy on the block, and an amazing cook. (For some reason, he just loves to clean up the kitchen, and although I want to sit and talk to him while he cleans, he insists that I take some private time for myself while he tidies up the house before bed.) Has anyone seen this guy that Iím missing so much on Sunday mornings?

JoAnn goes on to tell how she deals realistically with her imagination.

My best advice:

  • Ditch this fantasy as fast as possible.
  • Get over yourself and get going. I think you should get one year of grace to whine incessantly and drive your friends crazy. But you have to wake up and get going as soon as possible. Think of your sudden solitude as a wonderful opportunity to exercise, lose weight, and explore new possibilities.
  • Smile as much as you can. Youíll feel better, and so will everyone around you.
  • Make a list of all the wonderful things in your life. Burn your list of everything that stinks. Take it one step further and work on making the stinky things wonderful: I only have half as much laundry. When I clean the house, it stays clean. I can watch The Sound of Music instead of the Super Bowl. The list can get pretty interesting.
  • Count your blessings. Once in a while you get to buy something ridiculous, maybe even expensive, and no one will gripe at you. You get to wake up on Saturday morning and do anything you want.
  • Donít listen to sad music, watch sad movies, or hang out with sad people.
  • Rather than becoming isolated, find a community of believers who are facing the same challenges you are. The rules of life in Christ are not subject to an individualís circumstances. Without a community to hold you accountable, itís easy to start creating a new set of rules. A community will also get you out and about. My group does a lot of volunteer work. Itís better to be thinking of what you can do for others than dwelling on the things youíre missing.
  • Make yourself available to God. Ask him to help you remain pure. Focus your energy on serving others and being useful for his glory. I carry 2 Timothy 2:21 in my heart: let me be ďan instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good workĒ (NIV).

 

I know, to most people it looks as if Iíve been sitting alone on a church pew for most of my life. But I can assure you that the Lord has been sitting next to me all along.

JoAnn is a good model for us to follow as we seek to disarm our unbiblical notions about what others think about us. She clears away unrealistic speculation about the ďperfectĒ husband that can only serve to make her unhappy. She has taken the gifts God has given her as a Plan A woman and is using them to fulfill his purposes for her. Not only is she a successful career woman who has built her own business, she is also a faithful contributor to Godís kingdom. She lives 2 Timothy 2:21. Isnít this Godís plan for each of us in whatever plan we find ourselves?

How are you doing in this regard? In what areas beside marriage and singleness do we tend to nurture cherished ideas about Godís calling or will for our lives rather than deal with reality?

We may not like the Plan B job we have. But rather than dig in, work hard, or seek another job, we spend time thinking about how unfairly weíre treated. We imagine a dream job that doesnít exist.

We may not like the Plan B direction in which our children are going. They may not be performing in school or sports as we imagined they would. Weíve imagined them scoring touchdowns or winning awards in theater or academics, but theyíre not. Whatís wrong with imagining such things? If we donít ground our imaginations in reality, we can neglect to live in the moment God has given us. We can put pressure on our children to be something theyíre not. We can fail to fulfill our God-given responsibility to help them develop into the people God has created them to be.