Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nice Goal, But Where's Your Plan?

This past weekend, our church hosted "Purity Weekend." The men's ministry felt led this year to do something different with their annual men's retreat. They planned a conference for men, women, and teens. A conference that would impact the entire family. They were obviously following God's leading, because that is exactly what we experienced this weekend!

The issue of purity is so important and yet so seldom discussed. Oh, we'll scratch the surface but any deeper than that and it gets too personal. Too embarrassing to share with another person, let alone a group or congregation. And there's the problem. We leave it to be a secret. One of my favorite lines from an Andy Gullahorn song is "he knew carrying secrets to the grave is impossible to do, the secrets carry you." We keep it hidden, and it keeps us in bondage.

I spent 8 years of our marriage keeping a secret. Why? It would have been embarrassing to tell someone. I know, brilliant, right?

Out of respect for my husband, and respect for anyone reading this, know that I will be very careful what I share. Keeping it secret is a problem but too much information is not the solution.

I became painfully aware after our wedding, that things were not well. By the time I was pregnant with Aly (after a month and a half of marriage) it was clear that pornography came before me. So, I did what any good wife would do. I helped him keep his sin a secret. I lied to everyone at church who asked where he was on Sunday mornings, and told them he was sick. Then, of course, I stopped going to church too so that I wouldn't have to answer the question at all.

I had a great plan. I was going to be obedient to God (at least on one point). He hates divorce so I was going to stay married. So, I lived with his sin which was so much worse than my own that I settled right in to my new secret life as the innocent victim praying for God to change him. What a saint I was (and if you don't read that with sarcasm, then don't read it at all)!

And here is the biggest lesson God impressed upon me at this weekend's conference. I didn't have a plan, I had a goal. Honoring my marriage vow to God and to my husband was a good goal. But I had no plan! None. I didn't even know I didn't have a plan. Clueless.

I was thinking back over my life and realized that this was true of everything I ever felt committed to accomplish and then fell short. I had goals with no plans because I thought the goal itself was a plan.

I was going to marry a man who was a Christian. Even better, I determined that I would only marry a Christian who was growing in his walk with the Lord. That was my plan, except that it was a goal with no plan at all. Consequently, I went on a date before finding out if the guy had a personal relationship with Jesus. To be honest, I actually thought that I wouldn't be attracted to him if he wasn't a Christian so I saw no harm. You have my permission to laugh at me.

Moving right along, with no lesson learned. I was committed to saving myself for marriage. There was no question in my mind. That was my plan. If you've been paying attention, you'll know what I'm going to say next. That was, yet again, a great goal with no plan at all! At the conference, the women had a question and answer session and one of the questions asked about boundaries when dating. One comment was that you should not kiss. I have to admit that something in me was shocked by this. I thought that was pretty strict and unreasonable. Then, of course, God made His point. Where did I go wrong? Oh, yeah, I was totally committed to purity...until we were kissing. Oh, I see.

The point of deciding the boundary of not kissing is that if you are serious about the goal of purity then you need be serious about how you plan to achieve that.

Back to the goal/plan dilemma. Here's a less personal one. I planned to raise my children to be young men and women who love the Lord and serve Him. Again, it's really just a goal and I have come to see that the truth is I have not had a plan. God has been convicting me of this for some time now and I'm finally listening. One thing I have realized is that it is for God to reveal Himself to them and initiate a personal relationship. I am called to train them up in the way they should go. It's not that I have done it all wrong until now, but now I am seeking God's voice on how He wants me to train up my children.

I'm learning not to confuse a goal with a plan.

I'm learning to seek God's will, not only for the goal, but for the plan for getting there.

I'm learning.