gang aft agley," or, as you and I have probably heard it said, "The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry." Those words were as true in 1785 as they are today.
His poem's wisdom didn't stop there, although that one solitary line is the most famous and quoted. The original poem goes on to say (in the modern day translation, I'll spare you the language of the eighteenth century), "And leave us nothing but grief and pain instead of promised joy!"
Can you say, "Preach it, Burns!" I sure can!
I can sympathize with the cry of his poem because I have seen my own plans go oft awry. I've seen my plans fail and dissolve into nothing more than a memory of good intentions. In all of my planning and plotting I have become so caught up and invested in the schemes I am formulating that I have lost sight of how, in a moment, those plans can go wildly off course.
Looking back on the plans I have made I am left shaking my head in regret, turning red in the cheeks over my foolishness. I have thrown my entire being into designing the best of plans. I've written out blueprints in my mind, calculated twists and turns and come up with fanciful ideas. I have gotten so wrapped up in the foresight that I've lost my foundation in the here and now, carried away down paths of plans.
Then the present reality hits with a force I could never anticipate. My plans fail. A monkey-wrench gets thrown into my carefully designed diagram of my future. It may feel like sabotage or just good intentions gone terribly wrong. Either way, the result is the same. All my ideas that I have planned and plotted go up in flames, lost in a cloud of smoke and consumed by raging fire.
I've seen this scenario play out too many times. The sting of lose is acute and sharp. As Burns wrote, there is pain endured as a result of all those plans gone bad. The joy that I had in the planning is replaced with misery and grief.
Slowly, very slowly, I am beginning to learn a vital lesson from my own personal tale of the mouse and failed plans: don't hold on to plans too tightly.
Plans are just that, plans. They are an idea for the future but they aren't the present reality. They are very much subject to change. In a moment, without any notice, all of those plans can be turned on their head. Life can suddenly and unexpectedly throw a curve ball that knocks even the best made plans right out of the way, down a hill and into a ditch. So long plans! So long calculations, blueprints and designs! And hello to a whole new reality. Probably one that you and I didn't plan for and hardly know how to handle.
When I am holding onto my plans for dear life I become devastated when they are dissolved. My joy goes up in smoke right along with all of the designs I had in mind. Grief and pain replace my excitement and happiness. But this isn't how God intends for me to live. He doesn't want me to be so attached to the plans I've devised that I become dependent on them for my contentment. Instead, He wants me to find true joy and peace in the plans He has for me. After all, they are better then anything I could ever devise.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
There is no denying the scriptures. God's plans aren't necessarily my plans. I must remind myself when that Jeremiah 29:11 doesn't say, "I have the same plans you have!" or "I'm going to let you make your own plans and I'll ensure they go according to your design! Just give me the blueprint." That is not at all the promise of God.
God says that He has plans for me. They are plans that will give me hope and a future but they won't necessarily be my plans. In fact, it is probably better that they aren't my plans! Quite frankly, my plans are flawed. Even my best plans aren't half as wonderful as God's. This truth should leave me desiring His plans and not my own. I should be holding tightly to the promise of His plans instead of clinging for dear life to my own ideas for the future.
When I plot and plan, no matter how detail-oriented they may be or how carefully I lay out each step and thought, those plans will fail if they are not God's plans. When they fail how will I respond? Will I be filled with pain and grief? If so I probably was far too invested in them and far less invested in God's will for my life.
Or will I continue to be joyful and content?
When I cling to the promise of God, that He has marvelous plans for my life and a great hope for my future, there is not a single failed plan of my own invention that can get in the way of my joy. My joy won't be contingent on my own ideas. My joy will be rooted in the promises of God and the truth of His word.
The great privilege of being a child of God is that, no matter how many well made plans fail us, we are not reliant on their success to have a bright future. Our futures lie in the hands of God. He alone makes the perfect plans and sees them through to fruition.