My Houstonian husband and I were recently sitting on an airplane flying from Amsterdam, The Netherlands to Sibenik, Croatia to attend a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary of a friend of ours whom we met in Lagos, Nigeria 18 months ago. While I am not a jet setter by any means, I am learning how to maneuver around some awfully big airports!
|GERMANWINGS Airline in Split, Croatia|
Over the last three years, the Lord has graciously provided multiple 'unanticipated experiences' for me - Experiences I never would have dreamed possible 3 years ago. I came face to face with a cheetah. I have traveled to the top of a mountain in a cable car. I have lived in Nigeria. I have even had the opportunity to tour through Makoko - a slum on stilts located in Lagos, Nigeria - in which only members of the Nigerian Field Society area allowed to enter.
|Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria|
A SLUM on Stilts - 250,000 residents
Looking back over time, my adult life changed from a stay-at-home mom to a high school librarian to a “world traveler.” At least that’s how I felt sitting in seat 6B on that German Wings airplane which was about to land in a former-socialist country which was formerly part of the now-divided Yugoslavia.
I tell you this because we are all unique in and of ourselves and in our experiences.
We have different:
We have different:
- Attention Spans
And these are only unique distinctions from the letter A. We also come from different nationalities, speak different languages, possess different genetics, adhere to different political beliefs, encounter different upbringings, and have been subjected to different spiritual experiences.
When pondering the enormity of our uniqueness, I recalled King David’s words in Psalm 139:13-16. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Here we can see that we are all different because we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ by our Heavenly Father." We are who God designed us to be US!
While each person lives in a world with some similarities, like sharing the sun, moon, stars, and oceans, we graciously have been given different experiences so we can do the works intended by our heavenly Father for us to do. Someone once asked me, “Why do you think you were led to live in Nigeria for two years?” My response was, “I think that God wanted to teach me some things, and being in Nigeria was the only way He could do it.” This response was rather shocking as they were expecting me to say, “money, a change of pace, or ‘I have no idea.’”God allows people to go through different experiences with the express purpose of growing them into who He wants them to be and to prepare them for possible unseen ministries opportunities. However, it is up to us whether we take advantage of these opportunities or not. We can be prepared and open to accepting the experiences God places in our lives, by living a life pre-prayed up and filled with Scripture to guide us unto His opportunities for us.
|Street Scene in Lagos, Nigeria|
Along with our God-given opportunities, Proverbs 27:1 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” Special care must be taken as we speak about our tomorrows, because God is the one who sees the big picture of our lives, and He is the one who can change plans mid-stream in job assignments, health situations, or family needs.
We should live our lives looking and praying to understand that God knows what He is doing in any situation and/or experience we encounter. Look at various Biblical characters. Paul, Rahab, and even Jesus came from totally different backgrounds and experiences, but they were all used to fulfill God’s purposes.
Sometimes following the Lord’s leading is to test our obedience. Abraham went up the mountain to sacrifice his son Isaac only to be shown that God was testing his obedience and then He provided a sacrificial ram.
Once I really psyched myself up and put myself in my parent’s shoes – one at a time. In my mind and on paper, I imagined and analyzed their life. I looked at the background they were raised in, their heritage, their sibling order, their parent’s occupations, where they grew up, where they went to school, what size cities/towns they lived in, and more. It was an amazing adventure for me to understand their experiences and see how even God used their experiences to affect my experiences.
If you are up for an interesting activity, get two sheets of paper and label one page “Mom” and one page “Dad” and start writing. My experiment looked something like this, but much more extensive. Once you have done this, we are in a much better position to understand why we and others act like they do and why we might experience situations where others do not.
- Youngest of seven children;
- Immigrant parents from Italy;
- Raised in small town in Vermont;
- Scared of birds;
- Moved to New York City as young adult, etc.
- Loves to cook, etc.
- Raised as an only child;
- His Dad – Jewish;
- His Mom- Presbyterian;
- Grew up near New York City;
- Was in the Army;
- Loves to read, etc.
- Ivy League education, etc.
If you take this challenge, I’d love for you to share your insights at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments section on this blog.
Throughout life, we encounter both good and unfortunate experiences. It is hard sometimes, but we need to be grateful for both experiences. Psalm 16: 11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Our experiences make up the path of our lives. While rejoicing when things are good is usually effortless, it is very easy to become bitter through our unfortunate experiences. Life brings us joyous occasions and not-so-joyous occasions. Psalm 118:24 exhorts us to look at each day as being the day that the LORD has made. “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” While we don’t rejoice in our sadness, we can rejoice because God knows what He is doing. We rejoice because he will be our sustainer through both our good and bad experiences. We should try to evaluate each experience through the eyes of God.
To put it in a nutshell, let’s decide daily to see our experiences through the eyes of Jesus. Let us remember that our experiences will not be like the experiences of others – they are unique to us - because we are unique. Let us remember that through ALL of our experiences, God has our best interests at heart. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.And, if you find yourself pinching yourself because you find yourself on some random plane flying to a country you have never been to, ask God to show you the purpose of the experience! There is one even if you don’t see it now.
|Sibenik, Croatia overlooking the Adriatic Sea|
God Bless You and “Carpe Diem!”
Bible Verses:So, then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.John16:33
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.1Peter 4:19
Prayer:Jesus, let me see the opportunities that you have placed in my life as experiences sent from Heaven. Let me see them as opportunities to partake in what you are providing for me. Lord, as I look at the experiences of others, please don't allow jealousy to seep into my heart. Let me not covet their experiences, but be looking with open arms to accept and enjoy the experiences you have put into MY life. Let me see life through your eyes and your eyes only. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Books by Patti Londa Greene: Awaken Me: a devotional prayer journal and God, and God, It’s Me: 181 Days for Young Adults to Become Passionate about Prayer and Bible Study
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