I don't remember a lot about my very early childhood years, but I do remember one of my favorite childhood toys was a Jack In The Box.
I know… I’m telling my age here.
For those of you who have NO idea what I’m talking about, this was a simple toy. Usually a metal box with a clown on it, all in primary colors. There was a crank on one side. When you turned it, it played the song “Pop Goes the Weasel!” While you were turning the crank and the song was playing, a clown would suddenly POP out of the box. It happened every time. But I was always excited for the surprise and amazed that the clown never flew out of the box! Those anchors that kept the clown in place were strong!
Well somehow between toddler life and puberty, my love and excitement for the element of “surprise” dissipated. By the time I was an adult, it had been replaced with pre-planning and preparation, daily to-do lists, and detailed itineraries. I actually started doing everything I could to avoid the element of surprise. I worked hard to control whatever I could for the sake of efficiency and the goal of getting it all done.
I was steering my career path, creating happiness in my family, and removing any discomforts from my environment.
Or… at least I thought I was.
Who was I fooling?!
All the late nights and early mornings. All the striving for praiseworthy corporate projects, admirable Pinterest parties and perfect family pictures with coordinating outfits. All the stress of making it look effortless. All of it was exhausting my soul, hurting my relationships and distracting me from my destiny.
No matter how hard I tried to control the outcomes, surprises still “popped up” all the time.
Over and over, I thought surprises were the problem. But in reality, the problem was what I was anchored to.
I stood strong, anchored in the four corners of SELF-ishness: self-reliance, self-control, self-discipline and the idea of being self-made.
Even though I experienced success, these anchors were increasingly unreliable, unstable and ever-changing. And every “surprise” showed how faulty these anchors really were.
What I realized is, I knew about God. But I did not know God. It surprised me to learn that, remarkably, God is never, and never has been, surprised. He has never said, “NO WAY! You’ve got to be kidding Me! I never saw that coming!” In fact, He knows the end from the beginning.
In the often quoted verses from Jeremiah 29:11-14, we’re given a glimpse of how He’s prepared for our lives and our future.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.
Let me give you some background here: God is speaking to the Israelites through the prophet Jeremiah. The Israelites are in exile in Babylon because they were unrepentant of bad behaviors and refused to change their ways (read more about this in Jeremiah 25). This wasn't a short exile either. It was 70 years of war, hunger and disease. SURPRISE!
However, in this verse God gave the Israelites hope to overcome. He told them the end of the story to help them make it through. And even before God shared His desire to prosper them again, His word encouraged the Israelites to live life and impact their communities while in exile. In Jeremiah 29:5-7, God told then to build houses, have babies and plant food—all indications that life would go on.
He always had a plan to prosper them. And He gave them instructions on how to stay truly anchored to their destiny, even through the tough times.
These same instructions keep me anchored in what doesn’t move. I know they work, and believe they’ll help you stay anchored too.
These small but simple instructions will make impactful changes to the trajectory of your life. I encourage you to give it a try.