By Martin E. Willoughby, Jr.
In 1999, the Internet boom was still going strong. Google was less than a year old and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) didn’t even have his driver’s license. There was a dotcom fever in the country. Silicon Valley was exploding with new businesses trying to make their mark. I remember thinking that we were living in a unique period of time in history. I imagined what it was like to live during the California Gold Rush of 1849 when people flocked to California to find their fortune. Anything seemed possible.
The entrepreneurial spirit runs in my veins. During this time, I received a phone call from an old friend that was starting an Internet-based real estate company in San Francisco, and he wanted me to join him to change the world of real estate. After consulting with my bride Nicki, we agreed to take this chance, so I quit my new career as an attorney to set out for California. I commuted at first, and our team worked feverishly to build the new company.
We were one of the first real estate companies in the country to put photos online of houses for sale. There were three other companies in Silicon Valley that started at the same time we did. We decided to join forces with one of them and merge our companies. Nicki quit her job in Jackson, and we rented a home in California near San Jose. The future seemed bright.
I came home for the Christmas holidays, and we packed up everything in our house to move. We stuck a For Sale sign in our yard and looked forward to this grand adventure. The day before Christmas, I received a phone call informing me that our merger was off and that my business partners had decided to shut down our business.
I took stock of my situation—neither of us now had a job AND Nicki was pregnant with our first child. Lord, I asked, “What are you doing?” We had a plan. We were moving to California. As an entrepreneur, I thought Silicon Valley was obviously where I was supposed to be. “Why did you take me down this path?” “Why did you let us quit our jobs?” “What are we supposed to do?” I asked these and many other questions. I thought I was being faithful. After years in the wilderness, I had come to know Christ in a very personal way a few years before. I could not understand where I had gone wrong.
I share this very personal story because I believe we all have these type stories. We set off down a path and then learn that God has other plans for our life. We encounter unexpected detours in the journey of life. In Proverbs, we find the wisdom “Many plans are in a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand.” Only God knows our future. As much as I want to map out my life, I have slowly come to understand that it is HIS plans, not mine that will come to pass.
For someone like me who likes to be in control, these lessons can be painful. I find that God has to remind me repeatedly that HE is sovereign—not me. Scripture reminds us “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord” (Proverbs 21:30). As we travel down the path of our lives, we need to learn to expect that there will be detours. We will likely find ourselves in unexpected places with unexpected people doing unexpected things. I believe our job is to embrace God’s grand design for our life and do our very best to bring glory to HIS name along the way.