This year, I will have lived in Arkansas for just as long (maybe a little longer) than I lived in Tennessee. Now, if anyone asks me where I’m from, I say “Springdale, Arkansas.” A few short years ago I would’ve said, “Union City, Tennessee.” When I think of my childhood, I think of flat fields of corn, purple and gold tornadoes, horseback riding lessons, church camp, the Capitol Theater, and riding my bike from one end of town to the other (you can do that when you live in a town the size of Union City). I think of being the shy, scared little girl at coach pitch softball practice who got hit with a bat and was ready to quit on day one, but didn’t because another, less shy, little girl asked me to stay; an action that formed a friendship that would one day make memories of my childhood that much sweeter. I think of youth group at Second Baptist Church and living in a neighborhood where I knew every single person. I think of going swimming in the Hopkins’ pool, because we were always welcome even if they weren’t home. I think of Mrs. Shelia brownies (still the best), pretending to be a mermaid, the Eastside Elementary spring play, and riding around on four wheelers.
I remember the day when my parents sat me down and told me we were moving to Arkansas. I was a 14 year old freshman in high school. I was a cheerleader who also played french horn in the symphonic band; I was very involved in my church youth group as well as our local theater; I had more friends than I knew what to do with. The thought of moving was devastating. Union City was all I had ever really known. My town was small, but it was mine. I could walk out my front door and in literally every house I saw there was someone I knew. It was safe. It was comfortable. And if you know me, you know that I have issues with getting out of my comfort zone. I was also pretty sure that Arkansas was just full of ignorant hicks. (It’s not, by the way.)
When my family got here, just a few too-short months after my parents had sat me down, I wasn’t happy. I spent a lot of time alone in my room. I didn’t make an effort to meet anyone. I think my dad may have been close to scheduling my appointment with a therapist (OK not really, but he was worried).
I got better. I made friends. I joined choir at school, I got involved in church youth group again. I graduated high school, went to college, made more friends, met the man who would be my husband and now I have a job I love.
My favorite verse has always been Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I lost faith in that verse 10 years ago. I wasn’t sure what the plan was and I didn’t believe there would be any situation where I was better off or happier than I was in Tennessee. I was so wrong. It wasn’t the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last. At that point in my life, I believed I was smarter than God. I believed I knew more than him about how to live my life. I didn’t trust him. Despite my lack of trust, he still had a plan. I don’t know where I would be if we had stayed in Tennessee, but I know I wouldn’t be with Jake. I wouldn’t have the job I have now with the most fun group of teachers you could ever meet. I wouldn’t have met the people who are now my friends.
I’m not trying to be melodramatic. I’m sure everything would’ve turned out fine in Tennessee, but it’s comforting to me to think about the fact that this event that seemed so terrible, this change in my life that I thought would be the end of everything good was just the hand of God placing me exactly where I needed to be. He has a habit of placing people exactly where he wants them. He placed Moses in Pharaoh’s palace to prepare him to free the Israelites. He placed Joseph in jail for a crime he didn’t commit so that he could predict a famine in time to stockpile resources that would save thousands of lives. He placed Esther in the palace so she could gain the favor of the Persian king, which enabled her to save her people from genocide. He placed Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem so that one of the many prophecies about the Messiah could be fulfilled.
But it wasn’t just the big players that God cares about. He also placed the woman with a bleeding disorder exactly where Jesus was walking that day so that she could be healed. He placed the widow in close enough proximity to Christ that he was able to raise her son from the dead and save her from a life of loneliness and destitution. He cares about the little people who don’t have their names written in history. He cares about our little hurts and worries. He knows our hearts and our deepest desires more than we do. He won’t always save us or make our lives easier. He won’t always spare us the hurt and the pain, but he will always be watching us. He will always know the innermost workings of our hearts and our minds. He will always love us more than we know. And he will always, always have a plan. We can’t see it and sometimes it feels like he doesn’t care or notice, but he does. I’m not trying to understand it or explain it; I just want to draw comfort from the knowledge that He is sovereign and I am under his wing. No matter how many times I run out from under that wing or how often I feel like the protection is gone, it’s not. Hindsight is 20/20, and there’s no way I could have known then how things would turn out now.
There will be times in the future when I don’t understand why things are happening or how it could possibly turn out for the better. But right now I am comforted by how little I know and how sovereign and all-knowing the God of the universe is.