From the Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759 – 1796) we’ve developed the expression: “The best laid plans of mice and men do often go astray.”
Burns’ poem To a Mouse was written after late autumn ploughing destroyed the tiny nest of a poor little field mouse that had obviously put many hours into building her shelter for the winter. She runs away squeaking in terror.
Burns’ original wording (paraphrased) was: The best laid schemes of mice and men go oft astray and leave us nothing but grief and pain instead of promised joy.
But the poet considers the little mouse blessed because she cannot look backwards at decisions made nor fear the future, as he can. He also considers himself to be her earth-born companion and fellow mortal, and he’ll never miss what little she eats of the grain in the shelter she’ll hopefully find. (A field mouse so tiny doesn’t eat more than ½ ounce of food per day, if she can find it.)
Our own plans often take a detour when life just happens to us. In fact it’s been said that if you want to hear God laugh, just make plans! No matter how well-intentioned the plans are, the chances that something will go wrong are quite high. But life wouldn’t be Life if it didn’t have twists and turns in the road.
For those of us not affected by the latest tornadoes and massive flooding, it can be impossible to fathom the horror and the suffering of those impacted. (Out here in the West our turn will come with the next big earthquake or wildfire.) Most of us can manage to prepare for emergencies by buying extra non-perishable food (one can per week if need be) and necessities.
We also need to hold back a little cash so we can perhaps buy bread and milk when the cash registers are down for an extended time. (Cashiers will probably deposit money into a locked box and not be able to make change, so we need to have small bills and coins, not a $20 bill.) None of this helps much when levees or a dam break, but if we’ve been obedient to God’s commandments, help will come.
For the families of those who don’t survive disasters, Faith that God knows what He is doing and that their loved ones are now Home will not be enough by itself to sustain them. They are wrung out emotionally and will need love and compassion that includes practical help to rebuild their lives. That has to come from us who are all God’s hands on this earth.
When my mother was torn from the grasping hell of advanced dementia the day after Christmas this year, it was not part of our family’s plans, though we had hoped and prayed for an end to her suffering somehow. But at Christmas? That was a bit much. In reality, her passing was a merciful release from a nightmare, both for her and my angel sister who had borne the brunt of the caregiving until loving hospice care became necessary. I do not know why mother was left on earth for four decades after my father died but I do know she is again with him and my infant brother, as well as other relatives. (And hopefully, the in-laws who had treated her badly have received a good, swift kick in the pants by now! If not, I will drop-kick them myself when I get where she is.) She will also be getting better acquainted with my husband who died last year.
As a friend from another Christian religion lovingly reminded me this week, God told the prophet Jeremiah (NIV 29:11) “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
And in (KJV) Isaiah 54:17 we are told, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper;”
We will come through these storms that strike along our crooked, winding path of Life. There is a golden light at the end of the tunnel. Meanwhile, we need to be here for those who need us the most, including ourselves.
Those among the creatives can’t create when we’re feeling down, so we work towards lifting depression one step at a time: one spark of inspiration; one majestic, four-legged animal to marvel at; one breath-taking flock of Canada geese searching for water where we continue to destroy their winter habitat; one fragile, amazing Monarch butterfly determined to show us the beauty we are losing; one incredible sunset after another.
Others must wait in line until any needed healing is underway, and then we’ll be back on the path Life is taking us in spite of some of our plans.