God of the Second Chances

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But forget all that-it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. -Isaiah 43:18-19

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. -Proverbs 13:12

I had a boyhood dream. It was to be a left-handed pitcher in the major leagues. My whole childhood was swallowed up by this obsession. Sure, it was unrealistic and far-fetched, but it was my dream and it gave me hope. From elementary school through college, I carried this ambition inside of me, practicing year-round and seeking out special coaches to hone my skill. My dream led me to junior college with the plan of gaining tons of playing time while adding muscle mass to my still scrawny frame.  Then I'd get an athletic scholarship to a four-year school and catch the attention of those talent scouts. I wasn't much of a strategist back then, but this was my well laid plan. You would have thought I'd have a plan B, but I didn't. 

I recall a pivotal moment during my sophomore year of junior college. Now captain of our baseball team, I had devoted every waking hour to honing my skills and strengthening my form, and it was time to get some honest feedback. I decided to ask my coach what the odds were of realizing my boyhood dream. So I mustered up the courage to ask the question; "Hey coach, do I have what it takes? Do you think I have a shot at getting drafted?"

Coach looked at me with a smile and kindly responded, "AJ, you're going to have a wonderful college career, enjoy it."

And that was it. Plan A suddenly collapsed like a house of cards leaving me 20 years old and a failure, without a purpose or a plan. I didn't know it yet, but this was the greatest moment of my life. Because this disappointment would open me up to God's redemptive purposes as I looked to Him.

God speaks these words through the prophet Jeremiah in Isaiah 55:8, "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the Lord.  "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

I've discovered that my plan, my goals, and my ambitions were not necessarily His purposes for me. Sometimes a boyhood dream needs to go up in smoke before a God-born vision can be revealed. One of my favorite things about Jesus is that He is the great Redeemer of our lives, mistakes and all. 

He is the God of the second chances.

On the other side of my failure I surrendered my life to Jesus at 21 years old, all alone in my bedroom. On the other side of my failure I began to pay attention to the artistic gifts that had been inside me all along. On the other side of my failure I began a new journey of becoming an artist, one that was being completely ignored up until that point.

Why am I telling you all this? Because God knows you. Because God has plans for you. Because you need to know that sometimes the greatest doorway to discovery in God is a good honest failure. And because living out your true purpose in God brings hope and fulfillment more than any other ambition we could achieve.

I want to bless you with this special verse from Isaiah 43:18-19 that has meant so much to me this new year. I believe God is doing a new thing our lives, and as we partner with Him in our First 20, giving the first fruits of our day to Jesus and listening to His voice, He births His purposes in us, originating from His thoughts about us, not our own. 

The best is yet to come!

 Our God Hears,
AJ Picard