Broken Plans

“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”

What a couple of weeks. As someone on Twitter said, you know it’s been a crazy week when someone sends a poisoned letter to the President and your reaction is, “Oh yeah, I forgot all about that!”
The bombing of the Boston Marathon. A city’s anguished response. A massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas. (Just be glad you’re not this guy, who survived both explosions.) A manhunt that shut down a city and transfixed a country, millions staring at their television screens just like we watched O.J. try to outrun the police in a white Bronco so many years ago.
For our house, it was the continuation of more than a week of craziness. I had a work trip to Kansas City the week before all of this, so we planned for Kelsey to go with me for some peace and quiet in the hotel. We farmed our three boys out to my parents and the girls to respite care. My mom teaches during the day, so Kelsey lined up various friends each morning to watch the two boys not yet in school.
And then all our carefully-laid plans went to pot. Two boys got croup and fevers before we left. We got them to the doctor, got meds going, but it turned out the fevers stuck around for a while, so none of the babysitting options worked out. My mom and dad took off work at various times over a couple of days to watch them, monitored temps, kept pumping meds.
One of the girls started a cough and fever, so she went to the doctor, where she was diagnosed with the flu. Super fun for the foster mom (who was a great sport). Then our other son threw up at school and had to go home to the grandparents’ house. Then the flu settled in L’s hip, causing a limp, which meant she had to go back to the doctor for x-rays because maybe it was another problem entirely (turned out to be just the flu, but still …).
My wife is on the phone the whole time, directing traffic, giving advice, comforting kids, apologizing for sickness. My parents and the foster parents were troopers. Then I woke up the last night of the trip with the flu. Fever, cough, chills, nausea, etc., so Kelsey had to drive the whole way home, then take care of the kids all weekend.
The adjustment back to real life was a little nuts. Kids weren’t behaving great after we had been gone. Laundry was everywhere. House was a mess. Schedules were wacked out. I was sick, so I couldn’t help with soccer, church, etc.
We did have a good time away. But it most definitely did not go according to plan.
Then, this past week, which also did not go according to plan. Not for the marathoners, not for those killed and injured, not for their families, not for a nation watching in horror. The dad who ran the marathon and then found his 8-year old son dead, his wife and daughter seriously injured … that wasn’t his plan.
The two suspects who carried out the bombing — that wasn’t their parents’ plan either. Who looks at their baby boys and says, “I hope you grow up to cause unimaginable horror”?
The families of the workers at the fertilizer plant did not plan for a fireball to change their lives. But it did.
“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
Our family sickness is minor compared to national events this week. It didn’t make much ultimate difference that we got sick. For others, their lives have changed irrevocably.
None of it was according to our plans.
God directs our steps, plans our ways, brings his purposes to pass. I don’t pretend to know how some of those purposes are good when they seem so awful. But I know the alternative — to believe that there’s no purpose, no control, no hope — is even worse. I know that God calls us to trust him. I know that whether our broken plans involve brief sickness or utter tragedy, our minds — and hearts — must still cling to what we know is true.
And sometimes even in the midst of difficulty, there are glimpses of joy, of hope, of good triumphing over evil, like these Boston fans reminded us in this epic, full-throated rendition of the national anthem at a hockey game after the bombings:

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