Don’t let life happen to you. Be intentional!

Derek Ouellette —  November 4, 2012

I feel like my life is full of negative people.

When my wife and I got married we told people our plan. Lord willing, we were going to wait 5 years before we started having children. Not one person said to us, “Good for you. God honours those who use wisdom.” But we got a whole lot of, “Don’t say that! Gods ways are not our ways.” or, “I said that too, and then I had two kids in three years.”

Rather than getting positive affirmation, we felt the onslaught of warnings. People didn’t want us to get our hopes up. They wanted to brace us for reality. A reality they experienced first hand.

Michael Hyatt has one of the most popular leadership and inspirational blogs on the internet, garnering hundreds of thousands of visitors each month. His blog is titled, Intentional Leadership. It’s the “intentional” part that intrigues me. He’s said that somewhere around 90% of American’s are not intentional about life.

I have a feeling that is the case with most people who have felt the need to brace us for reality.

Now the truth is, what they said could have happened. We could have had a child after our first year of marriage. But I believe it didn’t happen because we were intentional, and God honours applied wisdom.

Now am I saying that people who plan to wait a period of time but then have a child earlier than they wanted did not apply wisdom? I can’t speak to every situation and make that judgment call. But I will say, in light of Michael’s statistic, yes. Most people have a plan and they may even take some precautions to see it through. But if most people are not intentional about life, then yes, I have to wonder if most of those warnings come from people who were not intentional enough to see their plan through.

My wife and I were determined. We had only known each other for about 18 months before we got married and the first five years of marriage are normally the most difficult, according to divorce rate statistics. We wanted to take that time to learn about each other and to enjoy each other. So we took strong and intentional measures to ensure that we would not have a child until we felt we were ready.

Now without going into private details, let me say that my wife and I have a healthy sex life. So we did not do as one pastor counselled, which was to “practice marital abstinence, since the purpose of sex is to reproduce.” I feel bad for that man’s wife. But we also didn’t do what another pastor counselled, which was to “schedule and plan your sex strategically each month without the use of birth control. That way you won’t hinder God’s will.” It’s no wonder this pastor got herself pregnant within a month of their marriage, even though she intended to wait.

We took measures to ensure, to a level of absolute confidence, that we would not have a child until we were ready. That way if my wife were to get pregnant prior to our set timing, it would have to have been a miracle.

Intentional living is a new concept for me. Like most, I drifted through life, letting it happen to me and taking the punches as they came. While I say that I feel my life is surrounded by negative people – or half-positive people who feel the need to speak negative affirmations – I was the most negative person I know. I would have been perfectly justified in garnering the nickname, “half-empty.” But that is slowly changing as I learn the importance of being intentional about life. Each day comes and each day goes. It’s happening whether we like it or not. Soon I’ll be a dad. Eventually I may be a grandparent. I’m only 33, but I need to remember that I’ll probably get there eventually. And it may happen faster than I realize.

The question is, what am I going to do when each day comes? Am I going to let them happen to me? If so, what does that mean for my life when one day I look back on it all? I squandered my 20′s away because I lacked intentionality.

Now life sometimes happens to us whether we like it or not. My dad died. Life happened and there was nothing I could do about it. But my guess is that 90 percent of life is more within our control than we realize, and it’s that 90 percent of life that I refuse to let hijack me.

Let’s take marriage as another example. We’ve all heard the statistic that the divorce rate, even in churches, is 50%. But if you’re married and you haven’t been divorced, what does that number mean to you, really?

Here’s what it should mean to you (and this is how Michael Hyatt put it): your marriage has a 50% chance of failing. So we’re not talking about some abstract number about society, we’re talking about your marriage and mine. You may think to yourself, “no way!” I bet half the population, at one time, said the same thing. In fact they did, when they stood at the altar.

That’s why it is important to be intentional about your marriage. Don’t let it just happen. Be intentional about complimenting your spouse and about speaking positively about them to others consistently. Be intentional about avoiding flirtatious chatter with members of the oppose sex. Be intentional about spending quality time together.

Or take parenting. Some time within the next seven months I’m going to become a parent. I spend countless hours trying to influence strangers through my blog, at work and people at church. I like to learn and to lead if and wherever possible. Never have I a better opportunity to lead and influence then I do right now. It would be absolutely foolish of me to kerplunk my child in front of the TV for countless hours. See them off to school, let them hang with their friends and grow up without investing quality time, bestowing verbal affirmations, and reading with them.

I don’t want life with my children to just happen. I want to be intentional in their lives.

Life is too valuable, and too short, to sit back and let it happen to you. Happen to life. Be intentional.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Anna Bee

    Why not just try to follow the Prayer of Metropolitan Philaret: “Lord, give me the strength to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely on Your holy will. Reveal Your will to me every hour of the day. Bless my dealings with all people. Teach me to treat all people who come to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unexpected events, let me not forget that all are sent by you. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me the physical strength to bear the labors of this day. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray in me. Amen.” I’d be willing to bet this is Michael Hyatt’s philosophy. Resist the urge to judge others Derek. That pastor didn’t “get herself pregnant,” she was blessed with a child. Your plans worked out as you hoped – and thankfully you did not discover after waiting for 5 years that you were unable to conceive a child, as has happened to many – but God works in many different ways in this sinful world to bring about his glory and our intentions, as godly as they may be, are not always realised. Decisions about managing one’s fertility are between husband and wife and if anyone else, their spiritual father or mother. They are no one else’s business. This culture shuns large families and “indiscriminate breeding.” But these are sinful attitudes. The difficulties that come with raising a family are also due to sin in the world. As Christians we need to stand opposed to sin, while being prudent. I think I would prefer to call this watchfulness, rather than intentional living.

    • Derek Ouellette

      It appears I hit a nerve. Sorry for offending you but I won’t let the judgements, fears and warnings of negative people press us down. I reject any view of omni-determinism that sees everything that happens as a part of God’s intention. I believe God gave us minds and wants us to use wisdom – which in most cases is God’s intention. Of course He could do whatever He wishes (as I said in the post), but that doesn’t mean everything that happens happens as He wishes or because He wishes.

      I’m judging no one who wants to have a large family or anyone who gets pregnant right away or those who can’t get pregnant at all. I don’t know how you got that but again, it seems I hit a nerve and apologize for whatever unbeknownst nerve I hit.

      • Anna Bee

        No, I got what you were saying, I just disagreed with it. You didn’t hit a nerve or offend me; I just disagree with you. I don’t disagree with making plans or being intentional. But, up until recent history birth wasn’t seen as something to be controlled (and wasn’t something as easily controlled as it is now). Getting pregnant when we plan to get pregnant and no sooner is a recent societal innovation – so what were Christians to do beforehand? They were to trust the Lord with their fertility (or lack thereof)…period. Children are not the problem; large families are not the problem – sin is the problem. Sin is what we should plan against. It is attitudes like your that are keeping the birth rate so low in is now too low to sustain our population. What’s wrong with this picture? Stop praising yourself for making a plan and having it work out. You were blessed in one particular way. Other people may do things differently and be just as blessed.

        • Derek Ouellette

          Um… Anna, if the bottom line was that you disagreed with me over my use of birth control, then fine. I expect that not everyone agrees. Why didn’t you just say so in the first place. I could respect that. In stead you accused me of passing judgement against others who don’t use birth control. Nonsense as I said in my comment to you.

          Disagreeing with me over this issue is hardly worth unsubscribing over. After all, aren’t you the one who said, “Decisions about managing one’s fertility are between husband and wife and if anyone else, their spiritual father or mother. They are no one else’s business.” Well, this post was about the decision my wife and I made. So to unsubscribe because you disagree with me on our method of birth control seems small and hypocritical (against the backdrop of your own statement). Again, sorry for pinching that nerve. Hopefully in the future we can agree to disagree, rather than just disagree.

        • Derek Ouellette

          Anna, because I like to keep the comment threads close to the original post, I’d like to observe two points.

          The pastor’s I mentioned both used a form of birth control. The first pastor only had sex when they planned to have babies. Because they had three kids, and two were twins, that means in twenty years they had sex conceivably, twice. Which, to me, seems straight up unbiblical. The form of birth control the second pastor employed was to count the weeks and not have sex during the periods that she could conceive. Of course all one has to do with miscalculate or have a period out of timing for that method to not work. So the post only addressed degrees of birth control in which mine was more intentional. It did not at all address people who don’t believe in any form of birth control.

          If I were to add that category to the post I’d say, just be intentional about it. If you want to have a baby a year, fine. But remember that medically speaking, your body can only take so much before you begin to endanger yourself and your baby. At which point you’ll have to apply some measure of birth control – no matter what that is. So again, we’re back to degrees.

          Also, and this is very ironic. You’re big complaint (aside from disagreeing with my degree of birth control), seems to be that I’m limiting the number of babies someone should have. But the post says nothing about limiting the number of babies someone should have. My wife and I chose to wait 5 years for very wise reasons (I explain in the post). We could potentially still have fourteen more kids. Fourteen! (Not going to happen, by the way. But that’s where you and I disagree. And the original post didn’t even say that much.)

          So all of the conclusions you jumped to and the bulk of your comment and concern were unnecessary and uncalled for and inapplicable to the original post. Your reaction didn’t really have much to do with the original article.

    • Derek Ouellette

      Sigh, there are a few specifics I feel I need to address.

      First, your comment offering the scenario of us discovering we are not able to have a child. Let me share something personal with you. We found out a year ago that my wife has a condition that may cause her to lapse into early menopause at around 30 years of age. She’s 28 now. Fortunately we were coming up on our fifth anniversary and so we could still keep to our plan and yes, we are expecting (the baby’s not here yet, so hold your tongue!). But let’s entertain your scenario. What if the doctor had told us three years ago that we had one year to have a child before we couldn’t? Well, we would have had to adjust our plans and we would have tried to have a baby back then. Point being: we still would have been intentional about it. Okay then. Let’s take a step closer to your scenario. What if we never heard from the doctor at all and all of a sudden my wife lapsed into early menopause surprising us both. It’s a horrible scenario for sure. As I said in my post about my father’s death: sometimes life happens to us and there’s nothing we can do about it. Yet, as horrible as that scenario is, we had discussed early on that if for some reason we were unable to have a child, we’d adopt. Point being: we’d still be intentional about what we could do. (Are you beginning to see the point of my post that it seems you missed the first time around!)

      Regarding your comment about the pastor who got pregnant earlier than she planned. Listen to what Rick Warren said: “There are no accidental baby’s. There are only accidental parents!” Of course that baby she had was a blessing from God. But she did get herself pregnant before her plans frankly because she did not apply wisdom. No accidental baby’s. But there are lots of accidental parents.

      So don’t judge me too quickly without carefully knowing what I’m talking about. And in the end, you missed the point of the post. Read Carolyn or Debi’s comments above to learn what I was saying.

  • Debri Funk

    Thanks Derek. I needed that reminder. I have been letting life happen rather than living my life. Intention starts now.

  • Sharlene

    Added my thoughts to your blog, but they didn’t take – loved it.

  • Carolyn

    Good comments, Derek. The next few battles you face of negativity, are people sharing their horror delivery stories (and they probably already have – but don’t listen to them) and the comment after the child is born, “they are so cute now, but wait until they are teenagers”. Why can’t we be positive and speak life instead of death?

    • Derek Ouellette

      Thanks Carolyn. I was going to give you and Bob a call to let you know personally about Yeci and I. Miss you two. Peace.