I was on the phone yesterday with an advertiser. I handle what little phone book ads we do at my company, and this was one of the bigger company reps. He was very nice and polite, as most reps are. The deadline for the book in question, however, was going to be towards the beginning of next year, close to early spring, close to another particular deadline in my little family.
“Just to let you know, I’m expecting, and that deadline might conflict, so let me give you the email of one of my coworkers, just in case.”
“Oh! Congratulations! That’s really exciting. I have three kids of my own, and my wife is a nurse. We have really enjoyed them.”
“Yea, this is our first, so we are just trying to be extra careful with any plans or deadlines around that time.”
“I completely understand. I’m sure you get lots of unsolicited advice, but if I can tell you one piece of advice….”
The advice started out pretty mild (just listen to my intuition and raise my kids the way I want to) but eventually, it got pretty specific about how breastfeeding wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and their formula fed baby is now in the gifted classes at his school. Now, I’m not saying that everyone who has given me advice has been unsolicited. I’m really blessed to have a loving group of people around me, and I do listen to any advice they are willing to give. But that unsolicited advice has a way of getting under the skin and has the potential to make me second guess every decision and live in fear of what consequence may come because I chose wrong.
However, this isn’t the first time I have received unsolicited advice in my life. I got it as I was entering college, on what I should major in or what clubs I should be a part of. I got it preparing for my wedding, on how much time I should spend planning my wedding and what details must be included. I got it as a newly wed, on how the right amount of fighting or sex dictated a healthy marriage. I got it after my miscarriage, on things I should or shouldn’t do if we were ever going to try again.
The funny thing is that if you look at history, every generation thinks at some point that they have it all figured out. They have learned from the mistakes for former generations and their generation is going to be the one with the best relationships, the smartest and healthiest kids, and the most successful lives. But the truth is that we don’t have it all figured out. If we live honestly, then we know that we do the best we can and let God take care of the rest. There is not one perfect path for everyone.
In the New Testament, this was a common conversation. Paul was constantly telling the Jews that the Gentiles did not have to live the Jewish life in order to follow Christ. The Jews were convinced that their way of life was the right way, guaranteed to be the secret to success (even though the biggest names in Jewish history didn’t exactly have it all together).
The reality is life is not a checklist of do this, not that. There is no guarantee that a certain order of choices in your life will bring you a certain outcome. It’s always been messy and chaotic. Every generation brings challenges, but God’s promise is to be right there with you in that chaos, revealing his heart and guiding you through.
Lately, I’ve been wearing God as a shield around me, especially when the advice starts to come. Every piece of advice, I know, is given out of love, and I receive it in love. I know that it’s exciting to have a baby come into this world, and the anticipation of everything that can mean. There is so much to prepare for and so much to wait and see. I played “A Shield About Me” this morning as a reminder that no matter what path we choose (or sometimes is chosen for us), God is there and He will never forsake you or leave you. In the midst of struggle, in the midst of not knowing, in the midst of unsolicited advice, he is there, holding your hand every step of the way.