Are We Already Fulfilling God’s “Plan” for Us?

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Whenever I hear how God has a plan for me, I always think, “Excellent! I can’t wait to find out what it is!” Like any time now a Fed-Ex guy will knock on my door with an overnight delivery envelope.

“Looks like God’s plan for you has arrived!” he’ll say. “Sign here.”

Lately I’ve been rethinking the whole idea of God having a “plan” for me. Because if there really is a plan for me, then that means that ultimately God intends me to be somewhere other than where I am right now, to do something other than what I’m doing right now, to maybe be someone other than who I am, right now.

Something about that feels a little counterintuitive. And it makes me wonder if instead of being essentially subject to a “plan” God has for me, I’m not, exactly as I am right now, being the “plan” God has for me. I think maybe I’m already living the exact “plan” that God has had for me since the beginning of time. Not that I’m perfect, or have arrived at some lofty height just south of heaven, or anything like that. No, because that kind of paradigm — that “I’m moving from this lower point to that higher point”– is, I think, a view of God’s relationship to us that’s entirely too simple, linear, essentially evaluative in nature. I think it’s too … human a way of looking at how God looks at us.

If there’s one thing we know about God, it’s that he’s all about process. All any of us can ever be is a work in progress. It’s not like we ever complete our relationship with God. None of us ever reaches a point where we go, “Ah, good. I’ve now attained complete spiritual and intellectual understanding of God, and of all his glory! Great! Well, I’m off to the store! Big sale on watermelons!”

No. God ever unfolds before us. From wherever we are we keep falling, and he keeps catching us, and putting us back in place. That’s the relationship. That’s the model.

That’s the plan.

That’s always the plan.

There is no other plan.

I do think God has a plan for me. I think maybe God’s always had a plan for me.  I think maybe that plan was for me to be born, to live exactly as I have, and to be, right now, exactly the imperfect, questioning, arrogant, willful, stubborn person that I am. Something about me being just who I am right now must work for God, or he’d have arranged it so that I had somehow ended up being different than I am.

It’s a scary thought, in that it’s awfully close to really arrogant, and dangerously satisfied. But that’s not what it’s about. Instead, it’s about saying, “Okay, if God loves me, then he loves all of me, right now. So maybe I can just relax. Maybe who I’m supposed to be, and how I’m supposed to be, and where in this life I’m supposed to end up, is all up to God. Maybe all I’m supposed to do is just be alive. Maybe simply existing-maybe simply living every moment of my life exactly as I have up to this moment-is God’s “plan” for me. Maybe that’s always been God’s plan for me.”

Maybe the whole of my life has been the fulfillment of a plan God’s always had for … well, me.

Maybe God’s entire plan for me is nothing more complex or demanding than my finally understanding that God really and truly loves me, just as I am today.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Ross

    On this side of eternity I don't think we can know for sure, but I'm inclined to think that when we get to the other side we'll discover that the life we lived, was exactly how God planned for us to live.

    Or at least he knew all of the bad decisions we would make and had a plan to use those decisions to mold us into the people he wanted us to be. It all sounds very Calvanistic which I suppose it is, but God is sovereign and can do anything he chooses, including molding his children during a short mortal life on earth.

  • Michael

    I just wanted to say that Ive always believed in god always believed Jesus died for me. But Ive never been a good christian at all. I just turned 40 Im divorced no kids. Ive traveled the world. Served my country for 11 years. Ive seen alot of good and alot of bad. I done alot of bad in my life and no where near as much good as I should have done. In all of that Ive never felt at home anywhere. Ive never felt that I belonged to anything 100 % . I want to be a better Christian and I think Im trying more now. Ive meet a beautiful woman that I love and I want to have children with her when we get married next year. So, to get to my point. I never felt I reached gods purpose for me. I mean Ive done alot but it seems small. But now in my life I believe just being a good husband the best I can be and hopefully a good father some day is what god wanted from me all along. Your story helped me to believe that. Ive always felt it in my heart. That thats what was for me. I hope your right. Now I am sorry for writtin alot but I just wanted to say for me you hit everything write on the head for me. Thank you . Have a great week.

    Michael

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Ross and David: Yeah, that's what I think, too.

    Michael: Extremely touching note. God bless you for sharing it. Don't worry: Anyone who thinks they HAVE been a "good Christian" needs to think again. You sound completely sane, thoughtful, and good-natured to me. You're still here; God's still with you. You're in.

  • http://www.frozentoothpaste.com david

    I would tend to agree with you in approch, that is that we shouldn’t obsess about God’s plan for any of us.

    But while I don’t think worrying about God’s plan is helpful, I would tend to agree with Ross that later when we look back at it all, it may make a lot of sense.

  • KeithD

    It is very common to be told that "God has a plan for you" or that "God intended or planned for you to be right here at this time" etc.

    However, I believe that is more the exception than the rule with respect to life. (For example the angel visit to Philip in Acts 8.) The parable of the talents indicates that we have been given talents to use and I think God intends us to live life in the freedom of using the talents he has given us, not a regimented following God's specific plan sort of way.

    Jesus has set us free to live life following his commandments of love and that should be liberating not constricting. The concerns about "am I following God's plan" can be very restricting and lead to a negative life which I don't believe is God's intent.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Thanks for writing, Keith. I certainly appreciate what you've said here.

  • nisperos

    Yup, I'm with the plan being the relationship…

    But, I also believe that God knows ahead of time how things will all work out. Would you want someone to know the end of a movie or a book ahead of time? And, if someone was putting a jigsaw puzzle together, and they couldn't figure it out… Well, you might let them figure it out for themselves, or else, give them some hints, or, if they are going to walk away in frustration or otherwise give up, you might finally point to where the piece goes…

    Sometimes though, people will either tell you to put it in yourself, or walk away… and then, what choice do you have? Of course, there's always tomorrow and, in each day, also exists the possibility that "it's the end of the world… as we know it…"

    Still, the problem of evil might be intellectually put away with the doctrine of free will, but that isn't emotionally satisfying without the additional demonstration of love — so, we are indeed back to the relationship. Circular, but it works for me.

    Has anyone else ever noticed, however, that the more life experiences you have (at least it seems to work this way for me), the more emotionally vulnerable you become (when you are not in the midst of a "survival mode" episode of your own), and the more easily you are touched by challenges others face or tragedies in the world (bad stuff)? However, when you are happy or can join in an other's celebrations (more than just being there), the joy can be even deeper?

    The word "know" is a permissive word which originates from the word "can". Of course, out of "can" comes both "could" and "con"…

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Nis: You should think about starting your own blog. Why not? You've got lots of things to say, and it's certainly easy enough. I think you'd run a great blog.

  • Ross

    nisperos-

    The link you provided on the previous post has caused me to be unproductive at work. Woe to you for bringing me this stumbling block…

    just kidding.

  • M. A. Ross

    John – Thanks for sharing that viewpoint today…cuz so many of us agonize over things like this. The longer I live, I am becoming more and more convinced that that sort of agonizing is soooo contrary to God’s purpose in the first place! Anyway, your blog and the Oswald Chambers devotional below really speak to me about what the Bible says about purpose…not just what CHristian motivators say about it…

    Quoted from “My Utmost For His Highest: “AFTER OBEDIENCE – WHAT? “And straightway He constrained His disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side. . . .” Mark 6:45-52

    We are apt to imagine that if Jesus Christ constrains us, and we obey Him, He will lead us to great success. We must never put our dreams of success as God’s purpose for us; His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have an idea that God is leading us to a particular end, a desired goal; He is not. The question of getting to a particular end is a mere incident. What we call the process, God calls the end.

    What is my dream of God’s purpose? His purpose is that I depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay in the middle of the turmoil calm and unperplexed, that is the end of the purpose of God. God is not working towards a particular finish; His end is the process – that I see Him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because I see Him walking on the sea. It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God.

    God’s training is for now, not presently. His purpose is for this minute, not for something in the future. We have nothing to do with the afterwards of obedience; we get wrong when we think of the afterwards. What men call training and preparation, God calls the end.

    God’s end is to enable me to see that He can walk on the chaos of my life just now. If we have a further end in view, we do not pay sufficient attention to the immediate present: if we realize that obedience is the end, then each moment as it comes is precious.”

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Fantastic! Thank you so much for taking the time to share this. How wonderfully affirming.

  • snowhite197

    "Has anyone else ever noticed, however, that the more life experiences you have (at least it seems to work this way for me), the more emotionally vulnerable you become…n), and the more easily you are touched…However, when you are happy or can join in an other’s celebrations (more than just being there), the joy can be even deeper?"

    YES!!!

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    (Nisperos, by the way: I wasn’t in any way meaning to censor your comments here. I love your comments on what I do here on this blog. I only meant that you seem to have so much good and vaired stuff to say that it seems like kind of a waste to have it all buried, as it is, in the comments of this site. I just meant I thought your stuff deserved a better venue.)

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    And yes. Exactly.

  • Michelle

    Hi John and everyone, I just discovered this site yesterday, by accident (?). I’ll be checking regularly. I read your July 10th entry–why God allows evil. It had me laughing and thinking, and I read it to my son and sent the link to my mom. M.A. Ross –your comment is something I really needed to read today. Thanks.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Hey, Michelle. Thanks for dropping a line–and for passing the evil piece along. See you again sometime!

  • http://marcys-musings.blogspot.com Deanna

    John,

    Thanks so much for this post. I think you make some excellent points.

    I have linked to your post in my blog:

    http://marcys-musings.blogspot.com/2007/07/gods-p

    Thanks!

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Thank you, Deanna. Your commentary on the piece is really excellent.

  • M. A. Ross

    John, Michelle…and all…

    Glad we can all be of encouragement to one another…and show a little bit of God’s practical grace in our day to to day…

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    “God’s practical grace” is a great phrase…

  • http://georgiagrown.blogspot.com/ Harold Cunningham

    Ah, man ….. now you've gone and done it: "Messed with my mind!"

    Here I am, all hyped up on a jag to re-define and embrace my destiny at age 53. And what do you do? You go suggests that maybe I'm already living the life that wants to live in me (kudos to Parker Palmer). That's going to really poor cold water on my Life Coach after all the time and energy he's poured into me. Hmmmmmmm …. so now what?! I guess I could go out and buy a motorcycle ….. or what about those watermelons? Are they really on sale? Seriously, thanks for making me think.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Hey,Harold. What a wonderful comment. I love it. And I love the profile of you on your blog (that profile is here: http://www.blogger.com/profile/019660829471903054…. Great stuff. You sound like a real pleasure to know.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Too great! I love this. Thanks so much. You seem like you'd be a great guy to know personally. I'm looking forward to reading your blog, which looks great.

  • JP

    I heard somewhere about a country Christian song or a Christian country song that went something like "If you wanted me to be like you why did you make me like me?…

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Wasn't that the breakout song from the smash hit Broadway musical, "Frankenstein"?

    No, but good thought. Extremely apropos. (Now there's a word that's a lot more fun to say than type.)

  • Elle

    Thanks for this post John and the comments are great. I am at that stage in life where I seem to question everything, so this really helps.

    Strange, this is exactly what I needed to hear. Or maybe not so strange. God always knows. He knew I would be struggling in my thirties, and in His mercy He made it so I would come across such helpful discussion/ people. It blows my mind. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Holy cow–no, thank you. It's … exceedingly humbling, to know that what I wrote struck you with such resonance. So. I mean. Awesome.

  • Tim

    John,

    I recently discovered crosswalk, and through it you articles. You often make me think (ouchie that hurts) and always make me smile. I just wanted to comment on this month old article (that I just found today, the last day of August). It dawned on me reading it that maybe, just maybe what God's plan ™ for me is:

    1)To Love God more than myself

    2)To know God better than myself

    3) and as a function of 1 and 2, to serve God more than myself

    And the really REALLY cool thing: if I do the first part of 1,2,3 (the God part) I'll get second part (the myself part) in a far more cool and REAL way than if i had only tried to do the second part without the first.

    Am I nuts? I'm new to the Christian gig, I tried it in college, but never "got" it. Now, here I am 41 and God has made it really clear that I'm His. And like you I had my conversion at work (in an empty conference room instead of a supply closet) andI had a coworker helping me through it instead of being alone.

    Thanks fer listenin'

    tim

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Yes, of course, you have it exactly right. In those three steps you've perfectly captured the entire essence of the Christian experience.

    And the fascinating truth is that to do any ONE of those things fully and well is to automatically do the other two.

    In a very real way, each of those three aspects of the Christian experience directly relate to one of the aspects of God found in the Holy Trinity. The first, being about where you bring yourself to God above, speaks to the Father. The second, being about where you, as a human, meet God, speaks to Jesus. And the third, being about what you actually DO in the world, speaks to the Holy Spirit within you. It's really a wonderful little package.

    Anyway, thanks so much for visiting here, and for leaving your wonderful thoughts. God bless you, friend.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Dude, you don't think like me at all. My name starts with a "J," and that's just like a fish hook, and Jesus has been called the fisher of men. Plus he fed a bunch of people with fish. Plus some of his disciples were fishermen. Plus people put little fishes on their cars.

    So, see? Totally different.

    Okay, fine. FINE! Yours is better.

    And yes, by the way, you DO now have to go buy one of my books. That's the rule. So often I have to TELL people that's the rule. Thank goodness you naturally intuited it. That totally saves me the trouble of having to send to you, as I always do to new commentators, 20 to 30 emails until they buy a book. (Hey, if you're really going to buy one of my books, buy it here:

    http://www.heartsandmindsbooknotes.blogspot.com/

    If you scroll down about halfway, you'll see some stuff this great bookdealer said about my two Christian books. I'd like to send some business his way; he's a great guy, doing great things for our faith. Thanks.)

  • Tim

    oooh, someone famous replied to my post. gak! now I have to go buy one of his books :-P

    John, several times I’ve read your posts and gone ‘Dude, that guy stole my line!’ You should be very VERY afraid that I think you think like I do.

    Last night, I was musing about wow, how much real the world is since I’ve become a Christian: that “sea of faces” is actually made of people. Who’d of thunk it?

    Then, in my normal one-thought-leaps-across-my-brain-to-somewhere-else, it hit me, hey, my name is tim, that starts with “t”, that looks like a cross… hey my life has really started at the Cross. hmm, all sorts of levels to that.

    Anyway, thanks for caring enough to respond, and keep ‘em coming, I need to have my old brain stretched more.

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  • Ladyofleisuredc

    Read the book “So you don’t want to go to Church anymore’ – OR maybe you wrote the book OR you’re just plagiarizing I dunnor- okay I’m stopping commenting because if I wanted to see my name splashed all over the right side of your blog, I would have done better buying a billboard.


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