Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21, NIV).
Recently our church did a painting event, where an artist walked us step-by-step through how to paint a Christmas tree with a cross as its trunk. I was helping my six-year-old son, Jack. We could see what the goal was for our painting, yet as we painted the artist often said, "If you like this, do this. If you want to do something else, go ahead and put your own style into it." As we painted, Jack expressed his own interests and desires in what his painting should look like, and when I walked around the room, I saw many, many different Christmas trees with crosses for trunks. The variety was incredible, and yet the purpose of the artwork was the same every time.
This is a beautiful picture (no pun intended) of God's purpose in our lives. He doesn't just dictate his will to mindless slaves to obey or die. He invites us into the process. He created us with thoughts and emotions, dreams and aspirations. He is interested in what our hearts long for, and he makes space for us to express our own "style" as we go along the way. God works with us to accomplish his purpose, and that is profoundly amazing.
Yet, we must remember that ultimately, it is God's purpose that prevails. If our plans go against his purpose, we will surely be frustrated. As I was reading and praying through Proverbs 19, the Lord brought verse 21 to my attention. I distinctly sensed him say to me, I want your plans to align with MY purpose.
I think when that happens, we experience the fullest sense of meaning, freedom, and joy. We are painting with our Father, who is showing us the purpose while allowing us to be who he created us to be in the process.
This brings to mind Psalm 37:4, "Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” May the Lord forgive me the times when my plans have not aligned with his purpose. And may we all find the sheer delight of aligning our plans with his good, pleasing, and perfect will.