When Things Don’t Go as We Planned

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I’m an optimist at heart, so I’m not sure why these words from a literature class in my distant past have always stuck with me. They are from the poem, “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns. The part I remember goes like this:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

While I don’t know why they stuck with me in the first place, I do know why I quote them so often: the first two lines are appropriate in so many circumstances. We often make plans only to find out that what actually happens is quite different.

I have certainly lived out the last two lines at various times, but it’s a pretty negative way to look at life. I like to concentrate on the first two.

My daddy always said that we would do such and such “if the creeks don’t rise.” That was just a funny phrase that daddy always said until we moved near a river.

The River Behaving Itself
The River Behaving Itself

One morning a few years before our children married, we left home to drive to the airport in Atlanta to pick up Bethany and Mary Evelyn. As we drove toward home after a very long day, we came into our town at about 10:00 p.m. Bethany and Mary Evelyn had been awake for twenty-something hours. When we crossed the river and turned onto our road, we drove only a little way before we saw a very unwelcome sight–floodwaters over the road!

A few minutes before, we had just thought we were about to get home and crawl into our nice warm beds. We turned around and called some friends nearby to see if we could spend the night. They said we were welcome, but their road was flooded, too! We drove back a half hour to Cookeville and stayed in a motel. The next day we bought wellies–just in case that ever happened again–before driving easily back to our house.

It has. The water doesn’t ever threaten our house, but one other time we were flooded away from our home for two nights; and on rare occasions, we have been “flooded in” for a few hours. By that I mean that we couldn’t drive away from our house for a few hours because water was over our road in both directions.

When we left home early on that December morning many years ago to drive to Atlanta, we had “best laid schemes” about the way the day would go and didn’t know that it would “gang aft agley.”

You know what though? The best family stories are usually not the results of the “best laid schemes o’ [us] Mice an’ Men.” It’s the things that “gang aft agley” that we remember and tell again and again.

Having a plan is a good thing, but being flexible is a good thing, too. If today doesn’t turn out exactly as you planned, maybe that’s not so bad. Remember what James wrote:

Instead, you ought to say,
“If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
James 4:15

While I was writing this post, the program didn’t function exactly the way it usually does and I had a bit of technical difficulty. You know what? “The best laid schemes o’ Mice ‘an Men . . . “

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