“It’s NOT Supposed to Be Like This!” When Life Doesn’t Turn Out As We Expected…

I’ll be the first to come clean: I’m the world’s worst at building up something in my little brain, only to be disappointed in the end. As an artist, I’ll envision some grand creation in my mind and how oh how stunning it will look upon completion. I proceed to make the quest to Hobby Lobby or an art shop and often go so far as to purchase the materials. It’s only after the fact that I get performance anxiety and stop midway through the project. Or even worse, I may completely bail out before I get started. Can you relate? Have you ever watched those YouTube instructional videos that make knitting a sweater look easy? Oh it’s easy, that is, until you try doing it. At least that was my experience. I’d need to have a head the size of an orange to fit through the neck opening of a sweater I’d tried knitting. Add to the size requirement that one of my arms would need to be six inches shorter than the other and that hot pink sweater just might have fit. No, I was never very good at following directions. I much preferred looking at the photos rather than reading the directions. Perhaps that’s why all of those toys Santa put together for my kids often fell apart a few hours later. Sheesh. Why couldn’t my work look like that which was displayed in a magazine?

Of course, the above is just an example of me sweating the small stuff. What happens when the big things in life don’t turn out as we planned?

When the white picket fence gets jerked out from under us or it never even gets built to begin with? When family members betray us and leave us speechless? When our children’s lives don’t turn out as we’d envisioned due to choices they made beyond our control? What then?

Where is God when a loved one’s life is cut short, leaving you with a gaping hole in your heart? Any form of healing seems out of the question. Are you stuck in a career and asking yourself daily, “How did I get here and how can I get out of this dead end job?”

Some of life’s hurdles cause our knees to buckle, vowing we can’t take another step. And perhaps out of desperation, we take the wrong step on the wrong path entirely. After talking with hundreds of women, it’s easy to see that we all have our fair share of mountains to conquer. We have bloodied our knees and scraped our hands from falling over and over.

We even experience heartbreak in countless ways. Has infertility pressured you into infidelity? Instead of asking for God’s grace and forgiveness, you’re angry with Him for even putting you in such a predicament to begin with.

If you can relate to any of the above, then welcome to reality. It happens to all of us and interestingly we all react differently when life doesn’t pan out as we’d envisioned. The idea of this blog post came to mind when I went with a friend to an evening painting workshop.You probably have them in your area as well. An art instructor leads the class and a group of fun-loving women get together to socialize, enjoy a glass of wine, laugh and oh yeah, do a painting. It’s so much fun. And naturally, the talented instructor makes creating the painting (in this case a colorful Taos landscape) look incredibly easy.

Although we all started out with the same supplies: a blank canvas, brushes, water and paint, our artwork could not have not turned out more different. Of course none of us were ecstatic with the results of our laborious two hours of hard work, including yours truly. My painting looked like something created by a deranged mad man or that of a third grade kid turned loose with a paint brush.

Before I’d even finished the last pine tree, I was already thinking of how it would perfectly match the dark green trash bag in our garage.My friend complained about her’s as well, “These colors are off! Mine is terrible!” I thought it was absolutely beautiful. Then I carefully observed all of the women looking at their canvases in dismay. Each one was comparing their painting to that of their table mates.

Oh friends, why must we always compare our lives to others? What happens when life’s canvases don’t turn out to be the masterpieces we’d attempted to create? It’s during those most difficult of times when we question our lives, our choices, and yes, we even question God.

I wish I could say I have all the answers, but I too have a closet full of artistic dreams that never got further than stick figure drawings. But don’t ever think for a minute that these primitive sketches are to be looked upon as meaningless. Some of those are a result of poor choices in which we have to be real and hold ourselves accountable. God often presents the same lesson over and over to us until we’ve finally understood what he’s trying to get through our thick heads.

But some of the unfulfilled dreams on life’s bucket list have zero explanation. Instead, it’s as if life has become one horrific nightmare. What then?

That’s when we must trust in Him. I realize it’s easier said than done, but we must try and accept that things happen or don’t happen in our lives for a reason. It is all God’s choosing and we must trust in Him and His word.

We may certainly choose to hate his choice of decisions, but I’ll be blunt: I rather trust my life with the creator of this amazing universe than to a 52 year-old blonde who flies off the handle on a whim. I must try and heed God’s advice and plan for my life, regardless of how I feel about it at the moment. Faith over feelings, remember? Mere feelings can get us into all sorts of trouble with far-reaching consequences.

We must white-knuckle the fact that God’s perspective is superior, regardless of how bleak or scary it might seem.

I learned this lesson in an art gallery of all places. I’d been an admirer of Claude Monet for years. A french painter in the late 1800’s, Monet was one of the founders of the Impressionist movement, becoming known around the world for his paintings of water lilies. When I finally had the opportunity to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and see an original, I could barely contain myself.

As I approached the Impressionist wing, I jostled myself to the front of the crowd ensuring that I’d see the waterlilies up close.

But when I gazed upon the canvas I was sorely disappointed. There must be some mistake, I told myself in disbelief. All I could see before me was a mishmash of colors that looked nothing like the work of art I’d studied in high school. Purple splotches looked haphazardly thrown onto the canvas and blue streaks were placed wildly, looking as if the artist had painted it with his eyes closed. There was no way this could be a famous million dollar masterpiece.

But then I took a step back. And then another, until finally I was standing at the back of the room alone. The tears fell quietly.

There it was. I could see it perfectly now. It was as if the colors had magically juxtaposed, blending perfectly into a gorgeous work of art. The light blue hues blended in with the darker ones, looking as if the water lilies were floating.The purple shades brought out the beautiful highlights in the pale pink flowers. Monet had intentionally placed every stroke on his canvas for a reason. It was all a matter of perspective.

I keep a photo of Monet’s water lilies on my phone to remind me that the dark times in my life have a purpose. I just need to be patient. You do too, sweet friend, and please know I’m praying for all of us. I trust you’ll pray for me as well.

Let’s allow God to use us as His canvas. Whether it’s on this side of Heaven or when we stand before our Creator, what a joyful day it will be when our own masterpiece is lovingly revealed and explained.

Hang on to that fact and have peace today.