Tractor tracks on Pleasant Valley Road, Haven, KS

Don’t get sidetracked

Have you ever started a year trying to plan ahead because you know it’s going to be wild and crazy? I still think it’s a good idea because you have to know what resources will be available, and you won’t know that until you set it all down and look at the  big picture. But what happens when your year gets wilder and crazier than you expected? What happens to your carefully laid plans then?

I’ve posted about this before, and I’m posting about it again because it’s something I’m struggling with. Nearly everything I’ve planned for this year has changed due to circumstances beyond my control, and I’m not upset about it. I’m just trying to figure out how to cope. And I really think that’s part of the danger of planning too well. When life throws you a curve ball, you don’t always know how to hit it because you’re too busy looking in all the directions you think it might go instead of watching the ball itself.

Tractor tracks on Pleasant Valley Road, Haven, KS

Tractor tracks on Pleasant Valley Road, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Proverbs 4:25-26.

Look straight ahead,
and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
Mark out a straight path for your feet;
stay on the safe path.

When you have so many things happening, so many issues to take care of, so many things going wrong or even going right in some instances, it’s really easy to let your focus slide. That doesn’t sound possible, but it happens, doesn’t it? Or maybe it just happens to me. I find that when one plan changes, it changes all my other plans. So while I’m scrambling trying to make sense of the rest of my life and salvage what I can from my plans that are falling through, I neglect the reason the first plan changed. And usually it’s because of something happening right in front of me.

I get focused on the future. I get focused on what might happen. I get focused on the plans that aren’t even taking shape yet, and I forget about what’s happening today. Maybe that’s part of being a big picture person. Maybe that’s because I don’t like detail. I don’t know, but it’s not a very smart way to live because instead of hitting home runs, the balls keep hitting me.

So I needed today’s verses. I need to remember to look straight ahead at what is right in front of me. It’s not bad to look to the future. It’s not bad to plan for what might happen, but we can’t forget what’s happening right now.

We can’t control tomorrow. Honestly, we can’t even control what happens today. We can only control how we react to what happens today, and that has more power over what happens tomorrow than any of our careful planning.

And when you get focused on what’s in front of you, don’t get distracted looking at the sides. Don’t let your focus drift. Nothing wastes more time (time that you probably don’t have) than fooling around with issues that aren’t even on the road you’re walking.

Taking an alternative route is fine as long as it’s God who leads you down that path, but if you’re getting off the road He set you on just to satisfy your own curiosity or to make someone else happy, you’re asking to get lost.

Keep your eyes straight ahead. Plan where you’re going today. Have an idea of what you’re going to do tomorrow, but don’t count on it too strongly because you don’t know what’s going to happen. The only thing you should believe in 100% when it comes to planning is that God’s going to do what He’s going to do, and it will be better than what you’ve got planned.

So walk straight. Deal with what’s in front of you, and don’t worry when your plans change. In my experience, even if the change isn’t welcome, it will work out for the better in the end.

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Draw wisdom from the wise but leave the plans to God

Getting advice is a good thing. It’s a good idea to surround yourself with wise counselors because you never know when you’re going to run into a situation that you’ve never experienced before. But just because you’ve never experienced it doesn’t mean someone else hasn’t. And getting their opinion on how to handle the situation is invaluable, especially if whatever decision you have to make will affect more people than just yourself.

Everyone has advisors. Everyone has teachers and parents and friends who they listen to. Even in film. Luke Skywalker had Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi and the dubious influence of Han Solo. Jack Bauer has Chloe O’Bryan. Dr. House has his team of diagnosticians in training, although he really only keeps his own counsel.  Maybe Dr. House is a bad example.

Having people you trust around you is important, and having people you trust who are experienced with life is even more important. Because you can draw from their wisdom. It makes no sense to fumble through life and make the same mistakes other people have made and suffer the same consequences someone else has. Because all you have to do is ask someone who went through the same thing so you can know how to avoid the same pitfalls.

Todays’ verse is Proverbs 19:20-21.

20 Get all the advice and instruction you can,
      so you will be wise the rest of your life.
 21 You can make many plans,
      but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.

Get as much advice and instruction as you can. Surround yourself with wise people and learn from them. Learn from their success. Learn from their failure. Learn the right direction to travel and learn how to keep going, whether you lose everything or whether you gain everything (because either one can be devastating).

Get wisdom and then live a wise life.

Even the President has a cabinet of subject matter experts who he turns to when a situation exceeds his understanding. So why don’t we? Because when troubles come our way (if they haven’t already swept you off your feet, they will), we need the advice and support of our closest friends who have already been through the same struggle. And if you listen to their advice and do what they suggest, you have a good chance of surviving whatever circumstance you find yourself in.

I’m making the assumption that our counslors and advisors are believers, students of Scripture, seeking God actively in their life. If you want to live a successful, godly life, that’s the kind of counselor you need (and that’s the kind of counselor you need to be).

Now, that all being said, our focus needs to turn to verse 21. I think it’s funny that it is included in today’s passage because it’s actually a separate thought. Proverbs is full of short little one-liners. Many of them, I can imagine some little merchant saying or some grandma while she sits and darns socks. If you’ve ever watched Fiddler on the Roof, you can appreciate the value of a good (or even a not-so-good) proverb.

But verse 21 is an interesting reminder that no matter how much good advice you get, God’s purpose and plan will remain the same. And no matter how much wisdom we accumulate, God’s wisdom is still higher. And we can plan and plan and plan until our whole lives are just one big step-by-step process, but God is the one with the real master plan and if your plan doesn’t fit with His, your plan has to change. That’s the definition of a master plan.

By surrounding yourself with wise counselors who are familiar with biblical truth, you can gain wisdom and know how to handle the rough situations that life throws at you. But remember that no matter how wise you think you have become, God still knows more than you do.

And when it comes down to it, I would rather follow God’s plan than my own.