The Best Laid Plans…
We’ve all experienced it. We make plans and nothing seems to go the way that we anticipated. “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” is an often repeated quote from the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Wiktionary states that it is an “expression used to signify the futility of making detailed plans when the outcome is uncertain.” The truth of the matter is that nothing is certain. Sacred Scripture states that the “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.” (John 3:8, NIV). With all of this in mind some might conclude: “Why even get out of bed?”
I often encounter clients who are hesitant about undertaking new endeavors for fear of failure and/or rejection. There are those who recoil at the idea of being a trailblazer. I have heard many a young person who are not willing to take on college courses because “no one in their family has ever done it before” and that they lack having anyone to “encourage them to do so.” I have had clients who are anxious about entering into relationships. Some even excessively labor over not only the decision to marry but to date or even ask someone to an event. There are also those who are textbook perfectionists. They don’t want to make a mistake. They conclude, “If I can’t do it perfectly then I don’t want to do it at all.” Some refuse to take on any type of risk. But unfortunately, doing nothing is also a decision and has its own inherent risks and shortcomings.
The Joy of the Process
The misfortune is what is being overlooked about the process and what can be gained from it. The journey can actually be just as important as the outcome. The insights, things learned, and the experiences along the way help us to grow and to develop in ways that we not have otherwise. Many insights can be gained on that first day of entering into a college class. Even in relationships that turn sour one can learn a lot about oneself and others. We can create memories. Roadblocks in our paths can cause us to look around and to even sometimes take time to smell the roses. Some things can also draw us closer and into a deeper relationship with God.
On Being Overwhelmed
Sometimes people get overwhelmed from the prospects of opportunities. They have difficulty envisioning a plan from start to finish. They can’t see the trees for the forest or the forest for the trees. However, it is important to remember that many baby steps can make up one giant step. Often it is all about one step at a time and perseverance.
Often the first step, point A, is the hardest. Anyone who has ever tried to write a paper or a book can tell you that the first sentences are the most difficult. Fortunately, unless we are stone masons, most of the time, the first step isn’t “written in stone”. Changes can be made. The paragraphs can be revised. We can even start over.
When God intervenes
“Man proposes, God disposes” is a quote from Thomas A Kempis in his classic Christian work, The Imitation of Christ. When going from Point A to B, a very vital part of the journey is to allow God to be involved by seeking out His will. I was once telling my sister that “God can draw a straight path through our squiggly lines” when my 6-year-old niece interrupted and said, “No Aunt Nat, actually He draws a Cross.” I have been pondering this thought. From the mouth of a babe she is correct. If “Man proposes, God disposes” then often the proposal comes in the form of a Cross. Sometimes we find ourselves taking many right turns along the straight and narrow path. Rather than ranting and raving about the wrench in our craftily designed plans, we can choose to accept the obstacles as opportunities to grow in ways that we would not have otherwise. The Cross in our roadblock is something that can actually make us much stronger and even more humble. In the overall analysis, the squiggly lines that we create with our mistakes actually can take on characteristics more beautiful than just a straight plain sketch.
Most importantly it is not that we fall down, but that we learn to find the grace to get back up. It is not such a terrible thing that we make a mistake. In spite of the circumstances, we have to be willing get back up, to get out of bed, go to confession, back to the Sacraments, or do whatever needed to keep on going in whatever direction God has pointed. It is also important to realize that we are never completely alone-- that God can have our back and direct our way. Even though at times we may think that in going from A to B we are “walking through the valley of the shadow of death.”