Sometimes you have a plan, and God has a plan, and the two are not the same, and God wins, and then – after a time – you realize in his winning, you won. The singular truth in this statement comes back and back, and yet we question – especially in turbulent times.
When I was in my teens, growing up in Maine, headed to college, I was resolved. I was going to be a veterinarian. I toyed with other ideas, law, politics, teaching, but I honestly wanted to work with animals, help solve their problems. The idea grew. By the time I was off, it loomed large.
I had read – and loved – James Harriet’s books about being a veterinarian, “All Creatures Great and Small,” “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” “All Things Wise and Wonderful,” and “The Lord God Made Them All.” His books made clear the job was long, all-consuming, but rewarding.
I knew, to become a veterinarian, I had to be pre-med. While other ideas circulated at the periphery, I prepared with four years of high school Latin, three of German, languages that play heavily into medical literature, or so I was told. I thought I was in charge.
I spent time following a veterinarian around locally, drew as close as a kid can to an idea. I fed pigs one summer, got to know habits of our cats, dogs, and rabbits (we had 64), convincing myself about this self-directed destiny.
Then, I got to college. Between eye-opening classes, social life, slight intimidation with where I was, how smart others were, and realizing how many years, how much money goes into vet school, plus how few vet schools there were, my idea – becoming James Harriet – slid sideways.
In its place, new ideas churned. By the time I graduated, my life was on a completely different track – law school, economics, a greater focus on people than animals. Decades later, the chance to contribute has been a reflection of God’s redirection, away from animals over to people.
Nor is this a one off. God’s plan seems to keep intersecting, and redirecting mine – and the plans of those I know – in ways that prove immediately frustrating, eventually life defining, lifesaving.
Not expecting ever to see Seattle, I ended up clerking for a U.S. Marine and Reagan-appointed judge who changed my life, and became an example of humility in power, gratitude, and patriotism. Accident of fate? That coincided with White Houses, naval intelligence, State Department – none of those things in my plan, not on my list, not in any of James Harriett’s books.
A close friend was a lifetime Naval officer and decorated ship captain. His career seemed locked into a high flying flag job at the Pentagon, then he got suddenly sideswiped. The office he expected to hold was denied to him by the Navy – and perhaps by an all-knowing God. That office, where he would have been, was obliterated on 9/11.
On that same day, as I have written elsewhere, I did not go to the Pentagon, did not go to the CNO-IP offices where I often served. Instead I climbed aboard a plane in DC headed for Phoenix, where I was scheduled to give a speech.
My plane did not get hijacked. It left 45 minutes later than the plane that hit the Pentagon, penetrating the 4th ring, destroying the offices I would have been in, killing eight friends. Apparently, God did not want me there or on another plane. His plan intersected, and fundamentally redirected, mine.
In far away places and close to home, this happens more than we know. We are not where we might have been, are where we happen to be, or as a friend tells me: We are exactly where we are meant to be at any moment, even right now – me just writing, you just reading.
In the rough and tumble, distracted and disorienting, often deeply frustrating turn of the modern world, we sometimes think – where is this going? I thought I was in charge? Why is this all heaped on me? Is there still a Polaris, North Star? If so, where is it today? Why do so few see it? Can I still see it?
And the answer is yes: There is still a Polaris, still a North Star, still a loving God, and He still has a plan – even when your eyes blur with tears, your heart is weighed down, the dream you had is gone, new direction unfamiliar, and you can barely make sense of things.
As the poet wrote, “He is the still point in the turning world,” or as T.S. Elliot reminded us with a touch of whimsy, “Except for the point, the Still Point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”
And as another poet, Robert Frost, offered after a discovery in the woods: “Here are your waters and your watering place, drink and be whole again beyond confusion.” Again, borrowing on Frost, the road may be lonely, but God put you on it for a reason. That is my takeaway. It will have “forks,” some your choosing, some not, and…Frost had words on that, too. It is all good. So, onward!
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.
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There are reasons many times that we are in a certain situation and don’t know why until the Lord shows why.
There have been many times that something happened differently and after al was finished I understood why God directed me in that direction.
Were Gods handy work and listening to him and doing his command we’re going to see the Holy Spirit moving in our lives.
The parable of Christ about the lamp, provides guidance under circumstances that are unexpected, in that it is important to have a sense of purpose, a code of conduct , a way to understand how we should approach each part of the journey of this life. Thinking about being a good influence on others, doing what is morally right, setting a good example. The light needed . Great article Robert, much appreciated. The mention of there still being a North Star , still a loving God and that God still has a plan is especially good. Great encouragement.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your words come as a balm for these trouble days. Reminding us of God’s ways is the best comfort we receive. Thank you again, God bless you Mr. Charles.
hi, I’m 73 and still amazed how God works in our lives! Yes indeed He is in charge.
Thank you Lord.
hi, 73. raised in Jesus’ church from an infant and i’ve heard Him speak throughout my life. only until my older years when i had more quiet time to listen did i realize that He speaks to us throughout the 24 hours. the quieter i am the more i hear Him. and, they ARE His answers because they are not always the answers I/we were requesting but when we follow they ARE perfect. jaw-dropping!!! can’t argue with perfection! and my family has witnessed His immediate (within minutes of making specific detailed requests) the detailed responses to our emergency plees on things people refer to as miracles. love your witness!!!! if anyone can’t hear Jesus, talk to Him. find a quiet time/place and listen. truly awesome! He is the only one to whom we can speak in total privacy
So true! Thank you for this beautiful reflection.
Bobby Charles is the best writer ever!! His articles never fail.
Anita, you humble and inspire me – we all have our stories, and remembering them to each other, is a blessing and source of affirmation. Thank you!
I enjoyed your article, I’ve been there right with you thinking I know where I’m going but somehow ending up somewhere else.
Be still and know that I am God, . . .we forget to listen.
This article is on point, point well taken and contains vital information that many need to hear. I understand perfectly that God set us on His path for our lives, whether we are headed that way or not, that is if we are open (at least eventually) to His reasoning. Thank you for this article.
I’ve been through this several times in my life – I make plans but for some reason they fall through, but what arises from that (His plan) turns out far better than what I had planned. :-)
Thank-you Sir! The Lord definitely knows what is best for each of us! Trust and obey.????❤️????
Very encouraging & helpful! Thanks!
GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES AND AMERICAN CITIZENS.
Wow! Your article gave me an eerie feeling, as I just had a similar conversation this very morning with my inner self while walking along the shoreline.Reflecting on one’s journey through life can be hurtful, sobering, frustrating, and invigorating, all at the same time. From a very early age I have been a spiritual being, but not always clearly aware of who was truly “driving my bus.” I thought I was in control, throughout my journey, however, over time, I have begun to realize that I’ve never been alone and a much stronger force absolutely has a specific plan for me. I never dreamed of being a teacher. I majored in history. My dream was to work at the Smithsonian as a curator. But, I would never have had the priceless experiences I had as a teacher nor the ability to make a difference in a child’s life as a curator.
We should all keep an eye on the North Star, as it will most assuredly keep us on our path. I’m truly excited to see where the final portion of my journey takes me. Still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up! Never give up on your dreams and never be afraid to take chances. We are all spiritual beings.
”I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.” RF