• Ashten Johnson

In the moment

I am a planner; I always have been. In high school, my eyes were on college. In college, after deciding broadcast journalism was not for me, I focused on law school. Once I got to law school, I worked toward a job. I had been in Birmingham for a little more than a month when I met Aaron, and we quickly began planning a life together. My focus was constantly on my future. Then, suddenly, the future I was planning came crashing down.

My "plan" for 2014 was simply to take life one day at a time until I got past all of the "first"s without Aaron: the first wedding anniversary, Aaron's birthday, the one-year mark. But as I got about halfway through 2014, I could not help but look forward... and I panicked. What was I planning for? By then, I had spent months "planning" my house--from purchase to renovations to getting settled. But once I was settled into my new normal, I didn't know what to plan next. I had a job, good family and friends, even pets. What felt missing, of course, was a plan for a family, and without Aaron, I had no foreseeable plans in that arena. So, from my stand point, my future looked a lot like my present. I looked ahead and saw a tunnel that just kept going, each day more or less the same as the day before. Where was it leading?

My type-A self tried to grab onto anything I could control--my career, finances, even grief. Yes, I tried to plan grief. I thought, well, by this month I should probably be feeling this way and then at that milestone I'll do this or I'll write that. It was a way of trying to control how I really felt. And it was a way of not having to look forward to what would happen when grief began to ebb and a new future began: a future I could not see.

By August, I began to recognize that I was trying to control my life to such an extent that I was not giving God any room to surprise me or teach me. So I prayed for God to help me to trust Him with the plan for my life. Truthfully, though, I didn't mean it. In fact, I wrote in my journal that I wanted God to show me what his plan is for my life. In other words, I trusted Him to have a plan, but I did not trust Him enough to have a plan I did not know about.

It took a while before I realized why I wanted to have control: I was afraid. I was afraid of what my future might look like: Will I be alone for a long time? Will I fall in love? Will I have my heart broken? Where will my career take me? Will I experience adventure? Without having something very specific to plan for, I was terrified of what my life might hold. Fear leads to control. My LIFE group (and LIFE Retreat) helped me realize that. I was afraid of what God's plan for my life might be (partly because I could not see it and partly because I was still learning to trust Him again), so I was trying to create my own plan. And that simply stressed me out.

So during LIFE Retreat, one week after the one-year anniversary of Aaron's death, I let go of fear. I made a conscious decision not to be afraid. I decided to trust, wholeheartedly. I decided to trust in the promise God made to me a year ago that I will have a family someday. I decided to trust that God is going to find the best ways to use me for his glory and to fill my life with hope and joy. Do I know exactly what 2015 holds for me? Not even close. Is that okay? Absolutely. In fact, I feel freer now than I have in a long time. My life is no longer in my own hands, and it is such a relief.

What I do know is that I am excited about some of the ministry possibilities I will get to be a part of this year. I am excited to use my life to reach others, to use my spiritual gifts. And I am excited for all of the things I cannot see. I only made one resolution for 2015: live in the moment. No excessive planning: just living. And that's a resolution I mean to keep.