“You saw the fields laid bare and empty,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! The cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.
That small heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter’s sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.
But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
– Robert Burns, from the poem To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough, November, 1785
I recently stumbled once again on this charming yet insightful poem while reading a children’s book. I chuckled, because it’s relatable…
We carefully construct plans for our vacations, finances, homes, futures, etc., only to have them violently overturned in an instant. Our disappointment is only rivaled by an intense feeling of helplessness as we watch smoke rising from the charred remains.
“The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew…”
You may (or may not) have noticed fewer blog posts lately. Many of my own careful plans (including blogging) have been repeatedly upended this year. So, if you’re feeling a bit frustrated, I’m right there with you!
So what can you and I learn from the ashes of our ruined plans?
We think we have so much control…
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.
“What is your life?
“For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
“Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”
– James 4.13-16, ESV (emphasis mine)
Did you catch that?
You are a mist. I am a mist. Technically, we are made from dust and will return to dust, but either way, the idea is that we are quite small. Like that homeless mouse…
‘How many times have you heard “the experts” explain how the unraveling of your plans was simply lack of determination, poor planning, or laziness on your part? “If you would only watch my webinar…” they say, “you could be just as wildly successful as me…”
You can read all the books, watch all the videos, “do all the things,” and still end up frantically scrambling to stop additional wreckage by Murphy and his law.
Make your plans, but submit their outcome to the Father. His plans are always better anyway!
We are not as powerful as we think we are. We have power over our choices and our attitude. That’s it. Any other authority/power is a temporary gift, on loan from God. For example…
- Do you have the ability to get up and go to work? Thank God for your health and a means of transportation! Both can vanish instantly…
- Do you have enough money to choose which foods go on the table? Thank God for the income which gives you that freedom! Job loss, identity theft, and natural disasters, frequently destroy that abundance…
- Are you “in charge” of other people? Children? Employees? A City? A country? Oh, how quickly our authority can be undermined and/or overthrown…
Do not be deceived. We have less power than we believe. The thwarting of our plans offers us the opportunity to learn humility.
Humility says, “If the Lord wills…”
Humility is not lazy acceptance but an intentional decision to entrust God with the outcome. This is much easier said than done, and it often demands the courage to trust what we see with a God who is “unseen.”
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Proverbs 19.21, ESV
Troubles loom like mountains, but to God they are no bigger than a hash mark on the tiny timeline of the world. Even that narrow line—with a definite beginning and end—is minuscule in the grand scheme of eternity.
My children and I have memorized 161 timeline events in the past year. The curriculum writer calls these events “pegs” that we use to help place certain events in time, but it isn’t intended to be comprehensive. In roughly 15 minutes we dash through 6,000 years of history. The Flood, the fall of Rome, the East-West Schism of the Church, William the Conqueror, The Hundred Years’ War, Napoleon, Two World Wars, and even the Terrorist attack on September 11, 2001—all these major events and people are gone!
The bottom line is this: What looks like a tsunami of trouble to us is a mere ripple to God. God is bigger than my troubles, stronger than my pain, and more lasting than my present.
The best laid schemes of mice and men may often go askew, but God’s plans are never overthrown. His steadfast love never ceases.
Give both your plans and interruptions to God. He has the power to transform our scribbled life-maps into golden threads, woven into the beautiful tapestry of His will.