When my daughter was little we often ended the day with storytelling. She would give me a story starter then off I'd go weaving the most interesting tale I could imagine. We had a lot of fun with Percy and Penelope. Penguins who kept finding themselves in very unpenguin like places. One time they got off a plane and were in Hawaii. "What is this grainy stuff scratching my flippers? A beach!?!" "Percy Dear, I'm afraid I might be terrible ill. I'm oozing wetness from my forehead." As they tried to find their way back home, they kept landing in odd and challenging situations. Each place they had to figure out where they were, how to adapt and how to get back home.
I have had times in my life when I felt like Penelope. Places I landed and knew something was off kilter. I always had the best of intentions, but I wasn't intentional about my life. People, things and life in general carried me away. Plan A didn't work out as I hoped and I ended up unintentionally with Plan B. Yes, I have been Penelope on the beach.
What about when we are in the wrong place? Places not suited for who we thought God made us to be. There are a lot of ways to be there, good ways and bad, some of our own doing and some not. When we are misplaced, can we live up to God’s full potential?
Take Ruth as an example. Life dumped some lousy, hard problems on her and ended up in a foreign land. A widow. Lower than low. Most certainly misplaced. How did Ruth respond? She didn’t give up. She didn’t become bitter or make excuses. She worked and gleaned and stayed faithful where she was. Intentionally, pursuing Plan B.
What was her character? Ruth 2:11 gives us the picture from the viewpoint of Boaz. "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. "
I didn't lose a husband to physical death. But the death of a marraige is a painful way to get misplaced. Untentionally, I was thrown into Plan B. I felt like I was starting from scratch trying to figure out who I am and how God made me. I'm getting there. Figuring it out I mean. I was once misplaced. Now I'm intentionally pursuing Plan B. It has opened the door to getting acquainted with the person God knit together called Linda. His Linda. I can't see much of her back in my Plan A.
The misplaced life Ruth lived in Moab trying to provide for herself and Naomi (now called Mara) must have been hard. I think she felt a kindred Penelope on the beach spirit. She was in a strange country, with different ways and she had to adapt. I wonder what Ruth thought while she was breaking her back in the heat of the day picking bits of grain from the parched ground. Just enough to get by. Well, for that day at least. Did she grieve getting misplaced? How long was it before Boaz noticed her? Even while adapting, Ruth never let go of her faithfulness to God and what He placed in her life.
So what did God provide Ruth when she was misplaced? She didn't have to go it alone. He gave her a mother-in-law to guide her and a redeemer. Boaz saw her character and faithfulness. God honored Ruth through Boaz. He brought her back from being misplaced to a place of fulfillment. God provided her relationships. Naomi a mentor and Boaz a redeemer.
Was her Plan B really God's plan A? What about my plan B or yours? I know God doesn't make a habit of bringing hurt and pain into our lives, but we can't deny the good He creates from it.
When I am misplaced, I know now that I have to be intentional about pursuing God's Plan A. I don't have to go it alone. He provides not only Himself, but relationships I need to guide and sustain me through the misplaced times. When I look and open myself to them, I find that being Penelope on the beach can actually be faith building and fun.