by Martha Nelson
Most of us grow up with dreams of how our lives will turn out. Not all dreams come true, but we hope that ours will. These dreams -- perhaps about the person we'll marry, the fulfilling job we'll have or the exotic travel we'll experience -- are special to us-- and perhaps no one else knows what they are. They begin when we are small children --hoping to be a doctor or a fireman perhaps.
Growing up in the city and loving animals, I always wanted to live in the country and be surrounded by horses, dogs and cats on my own farm. I do live somewhat in the country now -- with neighbours' horses in a field across the road. But my busy life as a travelling sales representative in Europe doesn't allow me the time for animals -- so part of that dream has yet to come true -- or may never.
Do you ever get frustrated by the many things you WANT to do and yet never seem to have time or money to do? Do you ever wish you could achieve all your dreams_RIGHT NOW? Do you ever wonder if you'd be happier if you could take time to write that novel or build that hand-made automobile you've been dreaming of? I sometimes find myself thinking that way. I feel, "If I only had the time and energy to DO these things, I'd be happier." Instead I get exhausted! Or perhaps you're the opposite and think, "If only I didn't have to work and could travel more -- then I'd be happy."
But real life -- especially as we leave university and settle into jobs and perhaps families -- does bring restrictions. Gradually we have more commitments to our work, our children, our churches, communities and homes. Modern life has given most of us more options and a much higher standard of living than our grandparents had. We have more free time, more material possessions and more television channels to occupy our time. If we are feeling limited by the restrictions in our lives these options only add to our frustration. But do we really need to feel frustrated?
I think the escape from this frustration is accepting the fact that there is only One who knows the course my life is meant to take -- and that is the One who created me and knew me even before I was born. He said, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you"(Jeremiah 1:5). That One is of course God. The Psalmist said of Him: "In thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me" (see Psalm 139:13-16).
God is the one who allows me to have dreams -- and in fact even puts them there -- and who knows what He wants me to do in this life. Accepting HIS will for my life brings a deep rest into everything I do. Putting ALL of my dreams into His hands brings an even deeper rest. I can say, "Okay -- I don't have to figure this out anymore. I can trust you to bring about what you know is really important for me."
It is easy sometimes to focus on the "limitations" and "restrictions" that life has brought. But each of us can only do so much_and these days most of us struggle with shortening attention spans and dissipated efforts: all the ingredients for a very dissatisfying life. Like the stream that is narrowed at the watermill and becomes powerful enough to drive the waterwheel and do the work -- so at times God must allow these "restrictions" and "limitations" in our lives so that we focus on a few things to do well.
This may be hard to accept if we are ambitious business people, used to managing our work and getting that sale! But in fact, God has always meant for life to be quite simple. All we have to do is love Him, obey Him, and do the little things He has given us to do -- and do them well. Jesus told Martha when she was distracted by all the busy things she felt she needed to do: "You are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful." -- which was to sit at Jesus' feet and listen to Him. (Luke 10:38-41) Listening to him we then receive the direction of what to do today and peace to leave the many undone things undone.
So the next time you feel restricted by the limits in your life -- think again. God has not allowed these "narrowing channels" to frustrate you. Perhaps He is narrowing your stream so you can concentrate on the few things He wants you to do in this life -- so you can do them well.