It might seem strange, but when I got married I hadn’t considered becoming a father. I could only see as far as becoming a husband. Conversely, when I joined the Merchant Navy as a sixteen-year old cadet my ambition was to become a captain, not merely a third or second officer. After thirty-three years of marriage I am a father to four sons and one daughter, and grandpa to one grandson. I never did reach the rank of captain, but left the Merchant Navy while still a second officer.

What happened to my ambition? Quite simply it eventually took second place to my desire to be a husband and a father. I left the sea because I loved my wife and hated going away and leaving my wife on her own. I left the sea because I wanted to be there when we had children so that we could be a family. I wanted to be a father. Things change. We change. The future we envisage at any point in time is not necessarily the best future, as demonstrated so often by the wonderful science of hindsight! The future we expect may not be the future that God has planned for us, as shown by many examples in Scripture.

Take Moses for instance. He was brought up as a prince and lived in a palace. Did he ever imagine spending forty years in the desert working as a shepherd before being called by God to lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt? Then there was King David. He was the youngest and least significant in his family. While his brothers served in the military David worked as a shepherd. David might have dreamed about being a mighty warrior, but the thought of becoming king would not have entered his head. In the New Testament we find Saul the Pharisee who becomes determined to persecute Christians, but then becomes one. We find fishermen and tax collectors who became apostles.

The Bible is full of examples of lives that are transformed by the power of God, even the most unlikely of individuals. But transformed lives did not necessarily mean easy lives. Remember Jeremiah? Everything he did in obedience to God seemed to result in a shedload of trouble and apparent failure. This was the prophet who appeared to be rejected by everyone. This was the prophet who got locked up in prison and dumped in a well. Nobody listened to Jeremiah. But in God’s eyes Jeremiah was a success.

The fact is that God has a unique plan for each of us. We are unlikely to be aware of the details, as we would consider ourselves ill prepared if God gave us a glimpse of His vision for our lives and all the changes this might involve. So how do we glean the detail of God’s plans? First we need to be surrendered to Him, and second we need to be ready for the unexpected. Most of all we need to be prepared by spending time in His presence. You see before God can reach out through us, He needs to reach deeply into us. That’s why Moses needed to spend forty years in the desert.

After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to look more closely, he heard the Lord’s voice: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.

“Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’

“This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert. (Acts 7:30-36 NIV)