The plans of mice and men

26 05 2008

I’m led to believe that the reference to the best laid plans of mice and men is attributed to Robert Burns. I can’t help think about it as I look out on the pouring rain and gale blowing outside my window at this moment. It is what we call in the UK, a bank holiday today, a day off for most workers. In the area where I live, over this particular weekend there is an annual Air Show that lasts over the Sunday and Monday. Yesterday the morning rain gave way by lunchtime to just cloud with the odd break of blue sky. It was not good air show weather. Today they are forecasting that this rain and very strong winds will continue – even worse air show weather. Somebody, somewhere, must be wondering, “Why did we spend the last year planning for this non-event?” We do it for the times when it doesn’t rain!

I’ve commented on it before but it never ceases to give me a chuckle, this uncertainty of life. I mean, there we are most of the time, feeling quite content with life, quite secure in the ordinariness and repetition of life, when suddenly, pow, and we’re left in a daze, wondering what went wrong, or why we didn’t foresee it, or why life seems so unpredictable and so mean. It’s so often an uncertain world. The uncertainties are many and varied. Some of them we bring on ourselves and some of them were right outside our hands.

In the UK at the present time there are some obvious things (very many  in reality) that we bring upon ourselves. Two will suffice to make the point.  Statistics tell us that we have an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, largest teenage pregnancy numbers in Europe, and growing abortion figures. (When one of the leading abortion clinics in the country starts making concerned noises, you know it is out of control!)  So if you happen to be a teenager and you find you have a STD, and that you are pregnant and someone is suggesting you have an abortion, the last thing you do is wonder, “Oh dear, I wonder how this happened?” You know how it happened! When you did it you were throwing dice hoping it wouldn’t happen.

We also appear to have a knife culture among our young. The numbers of teenagers being killed with knives seem to be escalating. A mother recently showed me the knife that her teenage son had been given for his birthday by some friends. Now I had a sheath knife was I was a boy; I don’t think knives are anything new, but what is new is the size! This birthday present must have had a a nine inch blade. That is a serious weapon. What is he going to do when he is threatened on the streets? Take his long blade with him, and the rest will be history. When he knifes someone or is knifed and there is a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth, will it be a surprise? It shouldn’t be.

But then there are the things that come along completely unforeseen. When planning an Air Show, bad weather is completely unpredictable at ten month’s distance, and then when two days before the event the forecasters speak of torrential rain and gales there is nothing you can do other than cancel or scale down. We human beings seem to have the capability of having such short sight that we allow ourselves to fall into the trap of feeling we are invincible. At the most mundane level it happens with personal health. We feel fine, we even feel strong, the weather is good and everything seems to be going well. We feel secure and strong and even brash and bold – and then we get the flu! Where did that come from? It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you feel like you are dying and you are utterly helpless.

Financial flu is something a number of us have been predicting for a number of years. We have watched greedy banks handing out more and more money to more and more people for many years, and as debt soared the sense of impending disaster grew – but not, apparently, in the minds of those in control of the system – government and big business. No they just carried on thinking it would go on for ever. Now the governor of the Bank of England says we’ve come to the end of the good times. Surprise, surprise! One of the most unfortunate men in Britain at the moment has got to be Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.  Did Tony Blair see it coming when he got out? If he didn’t he must be thanking his lucky stars that he did get out before it all came tumbling down. The ongoing media feeding frenzy over Gordon Brown continues unabated.  Can he stay?  Will he stay? Watch this space.

As a Christian I am not immune to the ups and downs of life. I hope I am largely immune from the bigger follies of life, the disasters brought on by our own disregard of God and of His design for us – but even there, even the best of us are vulnerable, as Job testifies. When Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5) it was in the context of the picture of him being a vine and us being branches that grow out of him. He was essentially saying that Christians come about out of his life and activity, and for us to grow and flourish and bear fruit, we have to remain in close contact so his life flows in and through us. It is a picture of closeness, of intimacy, if you like. If doesn’t guarantee total immunity from the follies of the world – because we still have free will and there are also things that other people dump into our lives – but it certainly helps. It is in fact the only security that I know of that hold us before, during and after the crises of life.  Especially the ‘during’ bit.  Knowing ‘him’ is the most meaningful thing possible.

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