| Painting by Patty Berry Rhodes|
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” -- Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)
It has been nearly a year since our dear friend, Patty Berry Rhodes, left this life so suddenly and so young. In the year since her death, those of us who love her, miss her, and grieve her loss continue to find the many “holes” in this life that her absence leaves and find ourselves in an incredible paradox. We rejoice that our dear Patty is with the Lord and at the same time we grieve the loss of a life that seemed to be on so many levels unfinished somehow. Or, was it? Was it really unfinished or in God’s eyes, was His work in Patty complete? Only the Lord truly knows.
One thing I have come to know is that since Patty’s death I find myself reflecting on her witness, her funny sayings, her easy manner, and her smile. I find myself asking the question of God, “What is it that I can do or still need to do to make a difference to others? No one can be exactly like Patty, but her life inspires me with a desire to “do more” and to live in a very intentional and meaningful way. Make no mistake here; I do not write this or pose the question to idolize Patty. She was a human being and a dear friend, but she was just like all of the rest of us, a sinner who was saved by God’s Grace. I think it would make Patty a little more than angry to think that any of us elevated her to a level any higher than that.
Patty was first and foremost a humble servant. She knew all of her imperfections and struggled just like the rest of us. She didn’t think she had any special talent, but she was willing to use the talent she had to make her church home a little more beautiful for the Lord, and to earn a few extra dollars for the needs of her family. We saw this talent, and we know that God certainly used it, but somehow I imagine Patty never quite saw herself as anything more than just “average.” I suppose it is that humble spirit that endeared her to so many and that God used in the short time she was here with us.
None of us have the view of ourselves that God has of us. None of us knows the potential we have of ourselves the way that God does. As much as I may dream and plan and wonder what it is that my purpose or potential is, I must remember that God is the one in charge. It is His plan that matters and His “dream” for me will define my potential. In the wee small hours of the morning, I sometimes find myself unable to sleep with my mind churning away at warp speed a litany of my desires and dreams. I have ideas for a book, a ministry, a new way to reach the marginalized, a new strategy for teaching kids about Christ, a very long list of people and situations that I am called to lift in prayer, and the list goes on and on. Then it happens --- I look back and see the “I” in the previous thought and so many before it. “I” have this, “I” ask that, “I” need to know, and “I” ask as “I” pray. My mind is so full of “I’s” that I forget “You.” What is it that “You” want of me, Lord? What is it that “You” want me to know? How is it that I fulfill the purpose and potential that “You” have ordained for me? After all, anything wonderful that I might accomplish or any difference I might make in the lives of others here in this life is not for my glory. It is for God’s glory and it happens because He worked through me to make it so. I’m just the vessel. God uses the vessel in the way that He ordains because He sees with perfect eternal vision how that vessel will be used and what the result will be.
Only God knows our true potential. Only God knows our true purpose. We may think we know, but only He truly knows. As much as we try to serve Him, fulfill our purpose, and live out God’s plan for us, only God is truly in charge and only He knows what that ultimate fulfillment will look like. I imagine that when Patty met Jesus face to face she must have been surprised and delighted all at the same time. Her thoughts were not of the things she did not do or left unfinished in her life. God was in charge of the outcome and Patty’s work was complete.
So the question remains for us in this life; what is it that we are to do to live at our full potential? God has the simple answer. He already knows the plan. He only needs us to be willing, humble, available, and courageous enough to try whatever it is He asks of us. We keep our spiritual ears tuned in to the voice of God, and we listen very carefully for the slightest whisper, prompting, and tug at our heart. He speaks softly, so we listen in a very intentional way to hear His voice. He wants us to yield and to fear not. We may feel afraid and even alone, but God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us the promise that He would be with us and would never leave or forsake us. So we can make our plans and dream our dreams, but we must do so ready to change direction or continue on when we feel discouraged or uncertain. One thing is for certain, when we submit to the will of the One who created us, we will live at our full potential and accomplish much for the glory of the Lord. We may never see the product of our efforts on this side of Heaven, but when we meet Jesus face to face, He will say to us as I am sure he said to our friend, Patty, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
As I remember my dear friend, these words from her heart still challenge and inspire me.
“God has a plan for you and not living with God as your best friend and at your full potential is worse than building an 800 horsepower engine and never starting it. Be all God Made You to Be.” – Patty Berry Rhodes
Make your plans, dream your dreams, submit them all to God and you will live at your full potential and for His glory.
Blessings and peace to you -- Winnie