A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9.
They say the Lord, directs our steps. And by “they”, I mean God’s Word says, and anyone who lives by it. As a believer, I have definitely quoted this scripture a time or two. I don’t think I ever really grasped the weight of what that meant, though. I always thought if I prayed for God’s guidance, He would help me choose the path He wanted me to go in. You know, the easier path, the one that was filled with joy and triumph.
Well, then. This year was not that. It was not what we planned and definitely not what we expected. It was absolutely not what we had hoped for and it was not easy or triumphant.
We started this year in prayer, asking God to direct our steps. We prayed for opportunity where we would find provision and joy. We thought we were following the path God had laid out for us when we came to a decision. We decided what was best for us as a married couple and for our future was for my husband to go play baseball in the LMB, Liga Mexicana Beisbol, and for me to stay back home, continuing to work through the pandemic. Come April, life would be on track toward our plans for the future.
Looking back at where we started, I wonder how our plans could have gotten so off track. Derailed, even. The train wreck that became this past summer was beyond anything we could have imagined. And when I say train wreck, I mean it. The kind you see coming in slow motion, but somehow just cannot avoid. I am still not ready to go into full detail on the specifics, but I will tell you it’s been extremely difficult, even as a believer who knows God is in control. And yet, we are still breathing. Not without some bumps and bruises, even scars, but still breathing.
My husband and I agreed to him going to Durango, Mexico this baseball season to play. We agreed that I would not go with him, due to the global pandemic and the risks involved in my job. We agreed that my job was our financial security, and that if we wanted to start a family and go forward with our plans for our future, we needed that. God was so good to us in those opportunities. He made a way for me to keep my job in an industry that was furloughing left and right. He made a way for my husband to get a contract in a reputable league when many men were at home waiting for a call. God laid out the plans He had for us and we were so sure of it. We started off feeling confident that this would be good for us.
“Good” is not the word I would use to describe the last 6 months. No, not at all. It was hard and at times painful. Hope was fleeting for both of us. My husband struggled in his career, and I struggled in mine. We both struggled with the distance. Durango was not a place I could visit or reach easily. We thought within the first two months I would have surely found my way to him, but that became impossible with pandemic restrictions and schedules. We were not happy, either of us, being so far apart from one another. Then, my husband lost his job. It really felt like our life was being torn apart at the seams.
The thing is, it felt like our life was tearing apart, but it was falling back into place. God used this job loss to give my husband a new opportunity in Cancun, Mexico. Fancy, I know. The best part, my job as a flight attendant brought me to Cancun regularly. This was a place I could visit. Much better. There was just one catch, he’d have to take a significant pay cut and we were already fighting to come back financially from the prior year of pandemic shut downs. We knew this wouldn’t be easy, but it was very clearly God’s plan. And so, we went with it, open minded and hopeful.
Hopeful. “Hope” is not a word I would use to explain how I felt in the last three months. I finally got to visit my husband in Cancun, only to find myself exhausted at work between working all day on flights to get there, only to spend 6 hours over night by his side. The time we did spend together was more like time spent literally asleep. We made the most of it, but it wore on us. It felt hopeless to try to coordinate schedules for visits and find the energy to actually enjoy our time together. I was losing hope daily, feeling like the enemy was working over time to come between us in our marriage. I became resentful. I became bitter. I became tired. I did not feel hope, but instead hopeless. Then, it happened again, my husband once again found himself without a job.
Now what? I really couldn’t take much more stress. I was already working overtime in a hostile environment in the skies and pleading with God through prayer daily for some rest. I already missed my husband and felt the physical distance between us getting harder by the day. “God, You must have better for us! Surely You don’t plan for this season of struggle! Surely You don’t want my marriage to suffer from this!” I truly believed my marriage was suffering. The distance, the stress, the constant fear of financial burden, the exhaustion… all of it. I prayed and prayed and then, the call came.
“Come to North Carolina, we have a spot for you”. The words of an angel, actually a team manager. My husband was offered a job state side. It was a forty minute flight to work for me and easily accessible. No more exhaustion. No more distance. No more stress! This had to be God’s answer to our desperate prayers. We just knew it! And so, my husband signed a contract and was on the next flight back to America.
He got on that flight. He sure did. He made it all the way to 35,000 feet when he turned on his WiFi and a text came through. The text that would quite literally turn him back around once he touched down in MSP. “I’m going to Guadalajara”. My heart sank into my stomach, and I typed out the only response I could think of. “Ok”. I didn’t have the strength to fight this one. I didn’t even want to know why or how. I just knew this was another plan gone array. Much like the rest of the last year, nothing was going according to our plans.
My husband touched down in the states long enough to collect his luggage and book another flight right back to Mexico. I got texts about “double the pay” and “better opportunity” and “it’s only for two more months”. “Ok”. I wasn’t happy, but I wanted to believe this was what was best for us, if only because it was what God was directing us to do. After all, we had prayed, and prayed, and prayed about it. We asked God to bring us to a better place from where we were. A better place for our marriage and for a future. This had to be it. I didn’t have to be happy about it, I just had to be obedient to it.
I’m not saying that things always have to get worse before they get better, I don’t believe that is always true. However, in this case, things did get worse. But then, they got better. God forced us into a season that was so difficult that we had nothing else but to cling to one another and Him in that place. We had to trust Him. Like I said, train wreck. When a train is derailed, there isn’t much to hold on to. I can only imagine in a real train wreck I would be shouting for Jesus to literally take the wheel. I felt this way in our life these last six months. Jesus, come and take the wheel.
Jesus did take the wheel. Our steps were redirected many times this past season. Every time we prayed for His help, He did help us. It was at times, hard to recognize. The fog of our struggles blinding us to the work He was doing in our life and in our marriage. At times, bending us until we were almost broken, but never quite letting us break. That’s our God, though. He let’s us go through rough waters and fires. He doesn’t always part the seas. He let’s us wander through the wilderness, lost but never alone. “’For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord…” (Jeremiah 29:11). That He does.
We thought we knew what those plans were this past year, but I have learned that only God truly knows what the future holds. God knew all along the battle we would face. He knew the enemy would come for our marriage and use our circumstances as his weapon. He knew in advance when we would take a wrong turn or where we might get derailed. And so, God put up roadblocks. He stopped us in our tracks and gave us a new direction. A detour.
I don’t know about you, but when I see a roadblock or detour, I tend to roll my eyes that I have to take the long way around. Even without knowing what may be on the other side, had I gone down the road I wanted to. Perhaps flood waters that would rush me away. Perhaps a cliff I would surely drive off. The roadblocks are there to protect us. And yet, we get irritated by their inconvenience. Every roadblock God put up to force us in a new direction was His way of protecting and providing for us. Still, I allowed myself to be bothered by the hardship of it all.
We may have come out of this season with bumps, bruises, and scars, but we are still breathing. Our marriage is still intact. I still have a husband who I can turn to for comfort after all the hard days. We still have a God we can turn after all our missteps. I have to wonder what may have been on the other side, had God not redirected our steps. Would we have survived this season? Would our marriage have survived? It’s questions like these I am thankful I will never know the answer to. I will never know a life lived without the direction of the Lord.
God’s Word tells us that we will forget our suffering, “recalling it only as waters that have flowed by”. (Job 11:16). I believe that is true. I have experienced it before in my own life. His Word reminds us that we “will be confident because there is hope” and I cling to that now, believing that even when I feel hopeless in moments, that feeling cannot last if we have confidence in the Lord. (Job 11:18).
This season was a hard one. Our hearts planned our way and took so many steps in what we thought were in the right direction. We felt the burden of going the wrong way time and time again. But we were never too far gone that God did not stop us in our tracks, even by derailing us, to set us on a different path. I look forward to the day where I can tell you that all of this struggle this season had some deeper meaning. I look forward to the testimony this season will bring us. We just aren’t far enough on the other side for us to know that part yet. For now, I will just tell you that I am even more grateful for a God who directs our steps. He never let’s us wander too far from His loving arms.
“If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear. You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security.” Job 11:13-18.