We all should have known that 2020 was going to go downhill fast when it started with "Friends" being removed from Netflix. As much as I can't stand Ross Gellar (I don't care if you were on a break, think about someone besides yourself, sir!), there are a few times that he resembles my life a little too accurately. The first would be the best scene of the show when Ross makes and drinks a few too many margaritas and just keeps saying "I'm fine. Everything's fine!" when clearly, he is not fine. Ask my husband... I am the queen of "I'm fine" when I should probably be in the back of an ambulance.
But the one famous scene from Ross that seems to characterize the majority of my life is when he is attempting to help move a couch up a set of stairs that is far too narrow for the sofa. Over and over again we hear the words that have now become famous... "Pivot. Pivot... p-pivot. Pivot! PIVOT! PIVOT!!!!". I have never seen my life summed up so succinctly before, but there it is. My life has been a constant stream of either myself or God shouting "Pivot!" and everything changing on a dime.
When I was about five, I remember looking up at the imitation Degas paintings in my dance studio bathroom and deciding I was going to be a Prima Ballerina. I kept that dream for years until my body screamed "Pivot!" when I hit puberty and I realized that, try as I might, I could never look like a real ballerina.
That is when I found musical theatre. I found a way to take the years of dance training and combine it with my natural flair for the dramatic. I spent the majority of my teenage years determined to be on broadway. I knew that I wasn't going to a traditional college, it was Julliard or bust. But then one day I stood up, and my body one again yelled "Pivot!" as my knee contorted out of place.
The next few years were spent on crutches, in wheelchairs, listening to doctors tell me I would likely never dance again and our real focus needed to be on me walking without assistance, and having a couple of surgeries to salvage and replace what we could. So, like I had learned to years before, I pivoted my dream and decided that while I may never be able to be a professional dancer on Broadway, I would still act. I did my physical therapy, I fixed my leg up to the best it could be, and I began doing background work on television shows and movies.
While I worked on growing my resume and landing some larger auditions, I began assistant teaching theatre at my old highschool. I helped direct and choreograph their shows and musicals and learned how to lead alongside some amazing women. I felt like this time, it wasn't just my dream, but that God was directing my path. I felt so confident that God wanted me to take the performing arts world by storm and help lead a revival in Hollywood. I was so confident, in fact, that I told God day after day that if He ever told me to walk away from Hollywood for something else, I would do it, no questions asked.
Then God said, "Pivot".
This time around, it was really difficult for me to pivot, not because it was necessarily a difficult change to make, but because I didn't understand why I was being told to turn my life in a totally different direction yet again. In the past, I understood that the plan I had was not what God had created me for. His intent for my life was never for me to be the principal dancer at the New York Ballet. As much as I love Broadway, that wasn't a part of His original plan for me. I know that God's plans are so much better than my own, so when I could see that the reasons behind my dreams were driven by ego and envy and pride, I knew those dreams came from me and not Him, so I was able to submit and trust that His plan would be so much greater.
The problem now was that I had spent several years praying that if this wasn't His plan for me that He would reveal that, and for years, I felt reassured that I was on the path that God wanted me on. So why now, when things were going well after putting in years of hard work was I being cut off from reaping the rewards of that hard work? Why couldn't God have saved me the effort and not wasted my time on something that wasn't in His plan for my future? I was so frustrated with God. I felt like I had been dating someone for years and then one day they said, "I always knew I wasn't going to marry you". If God had told me to go into ministry years earlier than I would have done it and could be so much further ahead now.
I felt like I had done my job and checked the map and asked for directions, and now I was being told I went the wrong way. I began to ask myself if I had been sinning by chasing my dreams in Hollywood, or if I had somehow convinced myself that God was on board with what I was working towards when actually He had been trying to tell me I was going the wrong way. This wasn't the first time that I had convinced myself that I was horrible at understanding and following God.
In the four years leading up to this career-changing pivot, I had two pretty serious relationships. Both of them, I spent lots of time in prayer before and during that God wouldn't let me waste my time. I took dating very seriously and only wanted to date if there was a possibility of marriage at the end of it. I went into those relationships thinking I had a green light from God, so when they ended, I was devastated and assumed that God had been trying to tell me no, but I was ignoring Him and couldn't trust that I was able to understand the Holy Spirit inside of me.
Now looking back on all of these events, I realize that that wasn't the case. The problem wasn't that I was unable to hear from God, but that I made a lot of assumptions about what He was saying. See, when I felt God giving me the green light to date someone, I thought that meant that He was saying that was the man I would marry and I would not have to get my heartbroken. When I felt Him encouraging my pursuit of the arts, I thought that meant that was my end goal and the only thing I needed to work towards.
It didn't make sense to me that a God who loves me and is all-knowing would allow me to waste my time. But what I called wasting time, He called character development. What I called walking the wrong way, He called training for my big moments.
If I had never had my heart broken and learned how to pick up the pieces, I would still be looking for a man to complete me and assign me value rather than realizing that God has already done that. I can't imagine the toxic effect that those mindsets would have on my current marriage if I never went through the hard work of growing through the pain.
If I didn't spend years training in the arts and teaching students about them, I would not have been able to help the church I worked at launch a musical theatre program and further their arts academy. And if I had gone into ministry any sooner, the church would not have been ready to embrace the performing arts as a form of ministry and my talents and passions would have been useless to them.
As easy as it is to want to take an express lane to God's plan for you, that just simply isn't possible. God's plan for you isn't just one moment or accomplishment. God's plan takes the scenic route because there are lessons to learn, people to serve, and a relationship with Him to build along the way.
I had to learn to stop looking at God as someone who was terrible at navigating and constantly needing me to make u-turns or detours to get where He was taking me, and start looking at Him as someone who wants to take a road trip with me. God knows that sometimes we are taking the scenic route and that there may have been a faster way, but if I took over the navigation and just drove straight on without any stops, I would have missed out on the amazing things that happened while I was "taking the long way".
Road trip movies are almost never really about the destination, but about the crazy, fun, loving, character building, relationship healing things that happen on the way. So if you are like me and feeling frustrated with how long the road to the end is, just remember, the memories made at the pit stops are helping make you who He wants you to be. Don't beat yourself up for misunderstanding God. You probably heard Him right, you just need to stop assuming you know exactly what He means.