Bends in the Road

As a Christian I firmly believe that God has a plan for this world and that he has a plan for us as individuals too. Despite the struggles that come with this I do believe great comfort and freedom can be found in letting God take the driving seat in our lives.

Yet one verse in the Bible seems to reflect my experience over the past couple of years, perhaps you can relate too:

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 19:21

Two years ago I had a plan. I knew what job I wanted and naïvely I thought I would get it. I was staying in London, that was certain. It was a good plan – so surely that meant it was God’s plan?

I think you know that the answer to that question was no.

My first job rejection hit me hard. I thought that I had somehow worked out God’s plan and that when I prayed ‘your will be done’, I was really praying for that job too. And yet, throughout the process I was also filled with unease, a fear that God really did have a different plan for me. It was a fear that I hoped wouldn’t be realised. I was holding so much onto the plan that I had created for myself that I didn’t know what would happen if I let go.

It hurt when this plan was taken away, and yet there was grace in this disappointment, a freedom that my plans had been taken away, and I was still (somewhat) ok. That plan was not my life.

After this disappointment I was again naïve enough to assume that whilst I didn’t get the job I wanted, I’d get another one soon and earn enough to pay rent on a flat in London. And yet job applications came and went, rejections flooded in, numerous places didn’t even respond, and the brief hope brought by an interview was shattered by my failure to secure a job.

I was running out of money and my contract in the flat I was living in was coming to an end. The only option seemed to be to move back home.

I felt like a failure, and moving away from the only church family I knew and almost all of my friends was painful. My mental health took a hit. And yet there was so much grace in moving back in with my parents too. I couldn’t see it very clearly at the time, but I have since come to value the perks of living with my parents as an adult, and particularly very much time spent with my best friend (yes – I mean my mum).

There were yet more disappointments to come. As I was rejected from what I thought were the ‘easy’ jobs I began to doubt my skills more and more. I took a job doing the thing that I had been trying to avoid for years – washing up! In my own snobbish assumptions, I had never imagined I would become a kitchen porter on graduating university.

I kept up the job applications and by Christmas I had been applying for jobs with the most minor of successes for a year. I thought I would be back in London within months. It looked like I was staying up north for a little longer. I struggled to settle into a church – Sunday shifts, a pandemic (?!) and perhaps most of all my own reluctance to join a new church prevented me from finding a church family back home.

One unexpected success (if you could call it that – given it was based on a random selection) was a work experience placement at Penguin Random House. The two weeks I had doing this in London were really great and I wondered where they could lead me. I was no longer naïve enough to think that this would somehow lead to a dream job, but perhaps God was guiding me or teaching me through this time.

By now it was the end of January and the word ‘coronavirus’ was being spoken more and more. I continued working as a kitchen porter part-time and as a desperate job-applicationeer part-time too. I got close to a couple of jobs, and yet as I continued to push at doors God kept them firmly closed. I would make new plans with every interview I got, but my plans are not God’s.

In March the museum I kitchen portered at closed temporarily due to the pandemic, and given I was on a zero-hour contract I assumed that I had lost my job – I then discovered I was furloughed. They had no obligation to pay me and yet they did. It wasn’t a lot, but it was grace beyond what I had expected.

An opportunity to take up a temporary role with the organisation I volunteered (very sporadically) with appeared. And somehow, I couldn’t tell you how, I got the job. Yet the DBS process proved very slow with numerous delays – my track record with jobs led me to doubt it would ever happen. But in June it did – and instead of the temporary assistant role I had applied for, I was now starting as a permanent (albeit zero-hours) Support Worker. It was scary and at times overwhelming, and yet it felt a much more worthwhile job too. I started to apply to similar roles in London.

By God’s grace, my 88th job application was successful and at the beginning of September, I began a role in London as a full-time Support Worker for individuals with learning disabilities.

It was almost exactly a year between the day I moved out of London and the day I moved back. It was not my plan to move how and it was not my plan to stay for a year when I did. And yet it was God’s plan, and who knows, it may be God’s plan for me to live with my parents again some day.

It was never my plan to become a Support Worker. It wasn’t even something I’d considered before the pandemic hit. There are still moments when I feel overwhelmed, and yet there are rewarding moments too. Now, six weeks into my new job I can’t say I’m any clearer on where God is leading me. But, slowly, I am learning to trust his plan. He has been faithful and he will continue to be faithful too.

I have made many plans over the last couple of years and in many cases it was not God’s will for these plans to be realised. It is his plan that prevailed, and even now I am starting to see the goodness in his will for me.

I was greatly encouraged by the perspective that a certain classic children’s book gave me. With a few words changed to prevent spoilers for those of you who haven’t had the joy of reading this wonderful book yet…

When I left [college] my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own that bend… I wonder how the road beyond it goes – what there is of green glory and soft, checkered light and shadows – what new landscapes – what new beauties – what curves and hills and valleys further on.’

And a few pages later…

[Her] horizons had closed in since the night she had sat there after coming home… but if the path set before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would bloom along it. The joys of sincere work and worthy aspiration and congenial friendship were to be hers… And there was always the bend in the road! “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.”

There have been many bends in the road this past year, some of which I have been very reluctant to follow. But along those roads, there have been many surprising blessings too. And as God leads me around each bend, through new landscapes and perhaps even dark valleys, he will continue to reveal new beauties to me along the way.