The Well Blog

Perfect Plans and Well-Meaning Casseroles

December 21, 2015
Chelsey MacAlpine
This article was imported from our previous website, which many have broken some of the content. We apologize in advance for any strange formatting or broken links you may find.

Growing up, I spent more time in the church than I did in my own home. My mom was a worship leader and my dad was on the board. Week in and week out I heard about Jesus. I heard how much I needed a Savior. But my heart didn’t quite understand.

I was comfortable. My parents loved each other deeply, we had a modest home, I went to a good school, we had enough money to play travel sports, and our home was always filled with laughter and love. I felt confident and in control of how life was going to play out. I would get a scholarship for sports in college, meet the love of my life, get married and have four boys. My parents would love being grandparents, and we would go on all-family vacations at least once a year (preferably to tropical destinations). Who needed a Savior when life was awesome?

My well thought-out plans started crashing and burning my senior year of high school. Two weeks into my water polo season I tore through every muscle in my shoulder, requiring surgery and ending any competitive sports ideas I might have had. The injury not only took away my senior season, but my identity. Who was I without my swimsuits and the permanent stench of chlorine? While on the outside I cracked jokes and pretended to be fine, inside bitterness was slowly taking root. Didn’t God know He was ruining my perfect plans?

Thanksgiving rounded the corner, and in the midst of festivities I got a phone call from my best friend. Her dad was in the ICU and it wasn’t good. For three weeks I sat in the hospital watching a family dear to me grieve the life of the man they loved most. While it crushed my heart to experience his death, I sat at the graveside breathing a sigh of relief that it wasn’t my parent. The Lord had already given me my hardship in life.

A few months later I was working my after school job when my parents showed up and asked if I could take a 10-minute break in the parking lot. As I stood in an empty parking stall in between my parents, I heard them using words like tumors, cancer, surgery, chemo. If I am honest, I don’t remember much of the conversation. I walked away processing the idea that my mom had cancer. My mom. My mom? But she loves the Lord more than anything. It had to be a sick joke. They must have messed up some labs at the doctor’s office.

Turns out the labs were right, and life changed pretty quickly after that parking stall conversation. We went from a normal house to one full of hospice and well-meaning casseroles. Our talks on the back porch swing turned into talks on her hospital bed. Plans for the future turned into reminiscing of years past. And before I was ready, the morning came when she took her last breath.

I wish I could say the first step of my grief process was that I ran straight to the Lord. But it was the opposite. I became angry and bitter. I couldn’t comprehend why a loving God would allow bad things to happen to good people. What’s the point of even following the Lord if it doesn’t prevent you from tragedies?

The last letter my mom wrote to me was signed with a verse. She had intended the verse to be an encouragement when I was struggling with my shoulder injury and what my future looked like without water polo. But it ended up being the reminder I needed when I struggled with what my future looked like without her:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
– Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

For a while I would think of that year, and all I would see was the pain, disappointment and lost dreams. But as I read that verse (for probably the thousandth time) it hit me. If I believe the Bible is true, then this verse must be true. And if this verse is true, then where was He during the hardest time of my life?

I started looking at that year through a different lens. Instead of the anger, I was becoming humbled at the amount of love and support He had placed in our lives. From friends who would come clean our house to the family that showed up on Christmas with breakfast and gifts for us kids. Dinners showed up at our front door for months, and coworkers would cover shifts so I could be at home. While Christ may not have physically been there, He had used people as His hands and feet.

Life has not gone the way I planned. But the truth of Isaiah 41:10 has remained.

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