Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray. And leave us nothing but grief and pain, of promised joy.” (That’s not exactly the words Burns used, but unless you’re partial to his Scottish dialect, the modern English works fine.) Anyway, everyone that’s experienced much of life knows how true that is. Plans, whether big or small, have an annoying way of getting changed – even when you have no say in the matter.
You neatly plan your day and you’re ready to get started when the phone rings. A loved one or a friend has an emergency. “Can you come – right now?” Or you arrive at the office, thinking about the tasks you need to accomplish, when you’re told of an important, unscheduled department meeting in 15 minutes. Or the day arrives for the long-awaited outing and, contrary to the weather person’s promise last night, a torrential downpour has settled in.
Years ago, as a new assistant editor at a suburban newspaper, I was toiling alone on a quiet Saturday morning. Saturdays typically were slow news days, so getting my feet wet in drawing up the front pages for the day seemed a simple task. I’d finished my layout sheets to instruct people in the composing room where each article and photo was to go. I was basking in a feeling of accomplishment when the unthinkable happened: the bell on the wire service machine rang, alerting me to major breaking news.
“Oh, no,” I thought. “The pages are done. I can’t make changes now!” I was tempted to act as if I’d gone suddenly deaf and hadn’t heard the bell, but was experienced enough to know that when news breaks you can’t ignore it.
A school bus had crashed in California, killing a number of students. Even though the news wasn’t from our area, I knew I couldn’t get by with leaving the nice photo of the tall ships and the cute little feature story on the front page. It was time to start over – and the press deadline was approaching.
Before I became overcome with panic, the managing editor came in, just to “check in” and see how I was doing. Seasoned veteran that he was, he immediately assessed the situation, took control, rearranged the stories for the front page, including the account of the tragic crash, and the paper was ready for the presses with minutes to spare.
Rather than berating my incompetence at coping with a sudden change under pressure, my boss offered a kindly word of advice I’ve cherished ever since: “Always have a plan B.”
Recently I read a quote that said, “Write your plans on paper – and remember that God has the eraser.” Looking over my more than six decades on earth, considering the convoluted course my life and career have followed, that’s proved true for me. And frankly, I’m glad God is the one with the eraser.
One of the first Bible passages I learned is Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Many times, in both my professional and personal life, I felt certain what I planned to do was right only to discover God had a very different plan. His “plan B.” More often than not, a better plan than I could have imagined.
That’s why I’ve found assurance in this promise: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:4-7).
When it comes to planning, to borrow the line from the old Robert Young sitcom, Father does know best. He’s good at implementing plan B – and really knows how to handle an eraser.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at email@example.com.