At least eight of them were going to live in big houses.
One of them wasn’t going to have a big house. His house was going to be BIG.
They would compete in the Olympics, be world famous surgeons and vets and carpenters, play professional sports, write books, run businesses, and make a lot of money.
They would drive Jeeps or a Ford or a convertible.
They would all marry, have several children (whose names they already knew) and live incredibly happily ever after.
These were the futures my daughter and her fellow fifth graders described during their DARE graduation this week.
We parents in the crowd smiled and laughed and probably some of us cried. What a wonderful, beautiful, sometimes humorous thing it is to hear eleven-year-olds dream.
My daughter jumped right in there, dreaming with the best of them about education, career, marriage, having kids, and making a difference in the lives of others.
Lovely thoughts, all of them.
But when they read her “My Future” paragraph at the graduation ceremony, I finally succumbed to the tears when I heard her concluding words: “My future is in God’s hands.”
Even when the plans don’t turn out the way she hoped or expected….
Even when life gets crazy or even just slightly uncertain…..
“My future is in God’s hands.”
I take this to heart. Shouldn’t we all?
My eleven-year-old self never planned or expected all that God has done and all that He has planned for me. My life has twisted itself up into a thing of beauty that I never could have created on my own.
There were seasons I thought God was messing it all up.
He told me ‘no.’
He changed my direction.
He made me wait ‘forever.’
He carried me through valleys of darkness when I couldn’t see the next step right in front of my face.
Maybe now I already know the answers to the questions these kids were asking: Where would I go to college? What would I study? Who would I marry? How many kids would I have? Where would I live? What would I do?
Yet, still there’s that constant compulsion to lay the future all out clean, perfect, organized, and bullet-pointed with measurable goals and a five-year-plan of how to make it all happen.
My own daughter’s wisdom brings me back.
Do I need to know all that?
Or do I need to just know this: ‘My future is in God’s hands’?
I think of Joseph, the perpetual Old-Testament dreamer.
God gave him so much more than a fifth-grade perfect-life wish-list. God gave him prophetic visions of his parents and brothers bowing down to him in homage and respect.
Then he was trapped in a pit while his brothers plotted to murder him. He was sold to slave traders and carried off to Egypt. He was falsely accused and thrown into prison. He was forgotten and left to rot in the jail while others were freed.
It might have looked like one great big hopeless mess. How could Joseph ever make those God-given visions work out?
The truth is he couldn’t.
And he didn’t need to.
He just needed to keep living, day after day, moment by moment, obedient to God, trusting that God was in charge of his life story.
Louie Giglio writes in his book The Comeback:
Maybe your dream is to go to school or get a degree or accomplish a certain task or find a certain spouse or start a business or move to a certain place or create a movement or carry the gospel to people who’ve never heard it before. Those may be great dreams, but there’s a bigger dream that overrides everything else: it’s that your life counts for the glory of God.
This is the constant dream we can cling to at all times and in all situations: May our lives bring glory to God.
Yes, in the prison.
Yes, in slavery.
Yes, even when all the dreams come true.
Ultimately, Joseph told his brothers:
And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life (Genesis 45:5 ESV).
Joseph knew nothing happened just for his own benefit, personal comfort or ultimate happiness.
Everything he endured was so God could ‘preserve life.’
His life was tucked into the grander story, the God-story, the story of salvation.
That’s true for us, as well.
We can dream, plan, plot and strategize, but ultimately we return to trust.