The Best Laid Plans

You know that old saying about the best laid plans? They go awry.

Boy, do they ever.

First of all, I knew the quote had to have come from somewhere, I just didn’t remember where. Most people seem to attribute it to John Steinbeck from his novella, “Of Mice and Men.” The line that he penned in there is, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” But it seems that Steinbeck derived it from a poem entitled, “To a Mouse On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With the Plow,” written by a Scot named Robert Burns.” Steinbeck really paraphrased Burns’ words to make sense to his contemporaries. But, I digress.

This phrase just seems to become truer and truer as I get older. Maybe it’s that I’m not quite as resilient as I used to be. Maybe it’s that my tolerance for change and my ability to flex to it seems to be growing less and less. Whatever it is, those plans that have been laid just seem to be more and more elusive.

I have a friend who used to say often, “Embrace Plan B.” She is one of the sweetest people I know and one of the most optimistic as well. She is always fun to be around because things just seem to roll right off of her back. She never seems to let things get in the way, even if they’re inconvenient.

A few weeks ago, I had started planning a trip for my wife. We missed celebrating our 10 year anniversary because my mom was dying of cancer and my wife was about six months pregnant with our third child. So, cast away those thoughts of revisiting Bermuda, where we honeymooned. That was just the beginning of a few very tumultuous years for us. So, on the brink of celebrating our 14th year of marriage, I finally got around to thinking about something special.

Turns out that some mothers are not quite as comfortable jetting across the world while their kids are still young. So, we’ve moved on to Plan B.

Occasionally, I have to travel out of state for work. When I do, it ends up being on a Friday and Saturday. While it’s not the most ideal, it only happens a few times a year. When we knew that I was going to be traveling, my wife and I decided to have a date day to spend some time with each other while the kids were all in school. We were looking forward to it for a week.

When the day finally arrived for us to enjoy our “date day” together, my middle child comes walking down the stairs in the morning sounding like a seal as he coughed and coughed. He complained of a headache and a stomach ache. My wife and I looked at each other and it seemed that the inevitable solution was to keep him home from school and cancel our date day. So, that’s just what we did.

I guess the best parenting advice anyone could have given me would have been to hold on loosely to my plans and always have a back up. Kids have a way of throwing wrenches in plans, but if you go into parenthood expecting that, the pain of it just might be lessened.

My dad was always the one who struggled when something would get in the way of his plans. I used to see this on our road trips as a kid. He had a plan and nothing could get in the way of that. If it did, he wouldn’t be a happy camper. That’s probably why he needed my mom so much, she could always talk the situation down.

Unfortunately, I’m my father’s son when it comes to my plans.

But I’m reminded of Proverbs 19:21 which says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” I particularly like how the Message version paraphrases it, “We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails.”

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that. Yes, Steinbeck and Burns were right, but just because plans go awry doesn’t mean that we don’t still continue to plan. It just means that we don’t get so bent out of shape when it comes to wrenches thrown in the gears of those plans. It also doesn’t mean that chaos ensues when our plans go awry. We need to trust that God is in control, that he is sovereign, and that his ways are not our ways.

I’ll keep laying my plans, I think I’ll just try to keep my fingers from keeping such a firm grip on them.


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