Plans to Prosper in Risk and Captivity
Cousins and risk-taking are a few of my kids’ favorite things. At our last cousin-date, the gas powered go cart was dragged out. The cul-de-sac where the cousins live became a race track with cones to mark the boundary from the busy street. My son Thomas was jumping and flapping his hands with excitement while watching my eleven year-old nephew rip around the neighborhood race track like it was the Daytona 500.
After a few turns around the track, my nephew asked Thomas if he wanted to take a turn.
Now in many ways, Thomas is a typical 14 year old boy.
He thinks passing gas is the highest form of humor.
His feet smell like…I don’t know…death and cheese.
He loves to push boundaries.
But in other ways, Thomas is not a typical 14 year old boy.
He has autism and is nonverbal.
He has some developmental delays.
His fine and gross motor skills are not quick or precise.
So when my nephew asked Thomas (not me, did you catch that?) if he wanted to take a turn, my brain immediately thought…
Is this safe?
Can Thomas do this?
Does Thomas know how to use the gas pedal? The brake pedal?
Do those cones MAGICALLY cut off the busy street from the cul-de-sac?
WHERE’S THE SAFETY OFF SWITCH?!?
Those questions are not exclusive to autism parents or even parents in general. I was asking myself questions like those before I was a parent. They feel like my recurring Christian condition.
Is it safe?
Can I do this?
Where are the cones that MAGICALLY cut off the danger zone from the assumed “safety zone”?
WHERE’S THE SAFETY OFF SWITCH?!?
Questions I ask of God far too often. And when I look closer, I notice a theme: safety.
Jeremiah 29:11 says,
“‘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.’”
This Bible verse is one we see on those Top Ten Most Encouraging Verses Lists floating around the internet frequently because, honestly, it’s a good one. I have whispered that verse, and even screamed that verse during many a go-cart type situation.
But I find the context interesting.
Jeremiah chapter 29 begins like this:
“This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.”
Some of the Israelites, God’s chosen people, were NOT in a safe place. They had been forcibly taken from their homes in Jerusalem and marched to Babylon. This was no “come over and have some pizza” invitation. This was a ransacking of their land followed by a mass kidnapping. What would happen if the city of Los Angeles decided to invade San Francisco, (suspended disbelief for a moment, please) take all the good stuff, and the best people? It would be mayhem and chaos. “Safe” would not appear in the news report.
The exiled Israelites were stuck in the foreign land of Babylon and Jeremiah encouraged them to:
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.” (v. 5)
“Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.” (v.6)
“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (v.7)
Because although you are in a situation that:
…you can’t control
…has no obvious safety off switch
“‘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’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
He knows His plans for us.
Do I believe that verse is true? Do I live like that verse is true? Do you?
In the three seconds it took me to run through all the different go cart scenarios, Thomas had the helmet on and was pressing the gas pedal. I took a looooong deeeeeep breath as he barreled towards the end of the cul-de-sac and the cones that marked the boundary between street and track.
But even if he hadn’t turned, Jeremiah 29:11 would still be true. I would just have a different ending to this story. The story that ultimately belongs to God.
By the way, I’m pretty sure he never hit the brakes.