Now, THAT’s a Plan!

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established. – Proverbs 19:21 (RSV)

Now that I’m somewhere between “middle-aged” and “over the hill” (closer to over-the-hill than middle-aged), I look back on my life and view the unexpected—the things that interfered with my plans—quite differently than I did at the time they happened.

My father’s layoff from the steel mill when I was nine led to tough times that taught me resourcefulness and thrift. The broken engagement that shattered my heart when I was 20 freed me for when Mr. Right entered the picture a few months later. (We’ll celebrate our forty-seventh on Dec. 22.) An unexpected pregnancy with child number three altered our dreams for the future.

No, my life certainly has not gone the way I played it in my head when I was growing up. I’d dreamed of traveling the world, free as a bird, but the road I traveled was one of diapers, doctors’ appointments, piano and dance lessons, sporting events, school programs, occasional teaching gigs to help make ends meet, and endless dust, dishes, meals, laundry, forms to complete, and papers that needed my signature.

The road was neither well-paved nor well-marked. There were no signs warning me of a “rough road ahead,” “construction: expect delays,” or that I’d soon be encountering fog, blowing snow, ice, or severe crosswinds.

In the words of Louisa May Alcott in her classic Little Women, “My castle is very different from what I planned, but I would not alter it.” 

Although “into each life some rain must fall; some days must be dark and sad and dreary,” she adds in the closing words of her character, Jo, “I’m far happier than I deserve. … Fritz is getting gray and stout. I’m growing as thin as a shadow, and am thirty. We never shall be rich, and Plumfield may burn up any night, for that incorrigible Tommy Bangs will smoke sweet-fern cigars under the bed-clothes, though he’s set himself afire three times already. But in spite of these unromantic facts, I have nothing to complain of, and never was so jolly in my life.”

I echo her words: “I’m far happier than I deserve. My husband is getting grayer by the day, and I am growing stouter as I edge closer to 70. We’ll never be rich, and everything we’ve spent our lives building can be lost in the blink of an eye. Obnoxious people will plague our paths, anyone can sue us at anytime over anything, and the economy will continue to be as stable as a sputtering firecracker.

But in spite of these unromantic facts, I have nothing, really, to complain about. I have my hubby, wearing out though he may be. I have my three grown children, their loved ones, and nine grandchildren who fill my life with love and joy. And I am truly happy and at peace.

And, most important, I have God, the One who is control of all things at all times (1 Chronicles 29:10–12). His Word is the only road sign I need (Psalm 119:105). For I’ve experienced the truth of Romans 8:28. I’ve conquered fear with Romans 8:31–39. I’ve faced my own inadequacy and seen His adequacy in Isaiah 55:8–9.

And I’ve vanquished insecurity with 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 a hope and a future.”

Now, that’s a plan!   

As I light the third Advent candle, Father, I am reminded that Your Son came to give me a hope and a future. Help me daily to recognize and yield to Your awesome plan for me. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 1:18–25; Luke 1:26–2:20.

© 2008 by Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Tamar’s Trump Card

Tamar
“Your seal and your cord and the staff in your hand.”-

 

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. – Matthew 1:3

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

One of the skeletons in Jesus’ genealogical closet was a woman by the name of Tamar, the Canaanite wife of Judah’s oldest son, Er.

At that time, the sons of Israel weren’t a nation yet. They were a bickering, jealous, scheming lot who sold their own brother into slavery. Judah’s was the line that would eventually produce the Messiah. You’d think it would be a line that was pure and noble, filled with brave men and women who did what was right.

Think again.

Now Judah’s son Er so wicked that God put him to death. Since he had no sons, his widow, Tamar, was given to his brother Onan, Judah’s second son. This was the custom back in those days to keep the family line going. Problem was, if Onan fathered a son, the boy wouldn’t legally be his—it would be his dead brother’s.

That didn’t go over too well with Onan. So he made sure he wouldn’t sire a child through Tamar. That didn’t go over too well with God, who zapped him, too.

“Live as a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up,” Judah told Tamar. But he had no intention of giving his remaining son to a woman who went through two of his offspring already.

Tamar did what she was told. She went to her father’s house and waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually she realized that she’d be a widow in her father’s house until the day she died if she waited for Judah to make good on his word. So she took matters into her own hands.

Disguising herself as a prostitute, she sat down by the roadside when she knew he’d be passing by. Her plan worked. Judah “hired” her.

“What will you give me?” she asked.

“A young goat from my flock,” he said.

“Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?”

“What do you want?” he asked.

“Your seal and your cord and the staff in your hand.”

Without a thought he handed them over.

Shrewd of Tamar. Stupid of Judah. These items were the driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers of that day, used for identification.

When Judah sent a servant with the promised goat, he couldn’t find her.

“There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here,” the men of the area told him.

“Ah, let her keep what she has,” Judah said when the servant reported back to him.

Three months later Judah learned Tamar was pregnant. Furious, indignant, he called for her to be burned to death. She played her trump card.

“See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are,” she said. “I am pregnant by the man who owns them.”

Ever want to get away? I’m sure Judah did at that moment.

“She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah,” he said.

One of the twin boys she bore, Perez, would be an ancestor of Jesus, the Messiah.

This isn’t a story of “all’s well that ends well.” Neither is it evidence that “the end justifies the means.” And don’t claim Romans 8:28—“all things work together for good.” “Good” isn’t “best.”

But to fulfill His promise, God used the only thing He had—flawed human beings who thought nothing of shirking their duty, going back on their word and obtaining what they wanted through deception and manipulation.

Human nature hasn’t changed. But what has changed is that now we can do something about it. For God “has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9 NIV).

And that’s a trump card in anybody’s hand.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.* Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord! Amen.

*From “Amazing Grace,” by John Newton (Public Domain)

Read and reflect on Genesis 38:6–30.

This is the second in a series exploring the genealogy of Jesus.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.