Those that know me well are well-aware that I am much more visionary than administrative.I love dreaming and seeing in my mind the final outcome of something that hasn’t even been conceived, let alone is close to being “born”.I pray and then I proudly announce, sometimes prematurely, what Jesus has told me. I never wonder how it’s going to get done or think about all the obstacles in my way.
I’m not a “planner” by nature. I don’t focus on the negative, the hard or even what seems impossible. I don’t listen to naysayers; in fact, they only make me word harder. I try not to become overwhelmed, to listen to the million thoughts in my mind that tell me I’m crazy, that __ won’t happen and that I am just a naive, crazy woman with an impossible dream. I just trust and move forward, or at least, that’s what I try to do.
In the end, I’m still human and can have my doubts. I also have a tendency to pray more than plan. This is not a bad thing, as one should pray before or while they’re planning….but not planning at all is not good, either.
As I said before, I have been going through Nehemiah with my husband, John. We are studying the book on our own and also with the help of Mark Driscoll, one of my favorite pastors of all time. Mark’s second sermon on the book (he goes through each book that he teaches verse-by-verse) was on the end of chapter 1 and first part of chapter 2. Nehemiah is still praying and mourning the condition of Jerusalem, but he is also planning, with the Lord’s direction, how he is going to approach the king (the same king that had halted construction of the wall just years earlier) and for what he is going to ask the king.
Nehemiah isn’t just locked up in a prayer closet with a vision and a lack of a plan to go with the vision. No, he is exercising both disciplines – prayer and planning. He is not making any plans without the Lord’s lead, but also not thinking that things will just “happen” because he’s spent time in prayer and hasn’t really thought about how to implement the vision God gave him.
He is asking God to do His part, but He’s also committed to doing his, as well.
In short, Nehemiah is a Godly, excellent leader.
In my own life, I have seen the effects of praying without planning and planning without prayer. Neither is good. Neither works or makes a difference, at least Kingdom-wise. Does God sometimes still use us despite our weaknesses? Of course. He’s a good, gracious God who loves His children. In fact, many times He uses us because of our weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9-10)….those weaknesses, though, aren’t because we didn’t pray or didn’t plan. They are because we live in a fallen world and God, in His sovereignty, sees to it that nothing in our lives goes to waste, if we’ll allow Him to move and work through any circumstance. Our Heavenly Father’s goodness, however, does not give us a license to be lazy.
I have also seen the effects of planning while praying. To this day, if you ask me how before the age of 21 I took 750 pages of e-mails and turned them into a 212 page book, complete with title and organized chapters and, even more miraculous, fully funded and turned into a book called Breathtaking, I would tell you one thing – it was God.
I still stand by that, but I am also learning it was a product of obedience, of living my life for a year like Nehemiah and praying and planning at the same time. I didn’t always want to sit on my bed for hours and edit pages out of huge binders and call it a “book”, while many thought I was crazy, but I did it. I did it because the Lord asked me to do so for His Kingdom, not for my praise and certainly at times not for my joy, at least in the midst of compiling everything.
There were many times I wanted to throw in the towel, call it a day and stop touring the country asking people to fund a project that wasn’t even completed. When I started, Breathtaking was just 2 giant binders in my room that were slowly being edited. I mean, c’mon, I had chapter titles on an Arby’s napkin; that’s not exactly something you want to announce when you’re asking people for thousands of dollars. I felt at times like a traveling idiot, as I drove to dozens of different churches, community groups, whoever would listen and told them about my “dream”, about this supposed book that would come out if they would just partner with me and catch the vision. After many Sunday mornings, I got in my car and said to the Lord, “Are you sure about this?”….obviously, He was.
I knew that I had prayed and that I was planning at the same time. I knew that God was the one giving me the strength to not only be in college but also edit for an avg. of 8 hours a day for over 10 months. I knew that if I would have embarked on writing a book on my own, I would have failed. That’s what I love about Breathtaking and Breathtaking Ministries, Inc., the ministry that was birthed out of the theology presented in the book. They weren’t my idea. I also believe that re-building the walls of Jerusalem wasn’t Nehemiah’s idea. He chose, though, as I did, to partner with God and commit to do His part and leave the rest to Him. We chose to obey.
It”ll be 3 years in December that Breathtaking was finally published. Now, years later (that’s hard to believe), I see that God is asking me to pray and plan again. My life is completely different now, and naturally, so are my prayers and what God asks of me.
I am thankful for a husband that is completely different than me, that interacts with God differently than me and reminds me of my weaknesses. One of those is my tendency to want to pray and dream without planning along the way.
God has a funny sense of humor, at least that’s what we think. John is an internal processor. I am an external processor. John is content with seeing few people in one day. One of the biggest downfalls I see from working from home is my lack of interaction with humanity. John likes earth tones. I love bold colors. John doesn’t say 80% of what He thinks. I say pretty much everything I think, at least to those to which I’m close. John feels loved through the dishes being done and me serving him in other tangible ways. I feel loved through vocal affirmation or cards filled with words. John files everything neatly. I used to have piles of stuff and called it “organized chaos”. John is a planner by nature. I am visionary by nature. John’s a realist. I am a dreamer. John struggles with planning without praying. I struggle with praying without planning. You get the picture. Though we’re different, neither one is better than the other. More importantly, since we’re wired so differently, together we are powerful and can make a difference for the Kingdom.
With the help of the Nehemiah’s example and my sanctification partner, I am re-learning the power of planning while praying. I am relearning that God doesn’t need me to tell Him my plans, if I’m not willing to surrender them to Him. I am relearning that God isn’t going to just give me some grand vision, even if it’s for the Kingdom, and expect nothing tangible of me.
In short, I am relearning the balance between trusting in God’s sovereignty and personal responsibility to be Jesus’ hands and feet. Is it always easy to discern? No, not at all. I am thankful, though, that God doesn’t give up on me and is always faithful to do His part. I just have to do mine.