Best-laid plans can backfire

Almost a century ago, when I was little, I looked forward to the Saturday afternoon Western movies at the local theater. I’d put on my cowboy shirt and boots, load up my genuine simulated six shooter with caps, and ride with heroes wearing white hats like Tom Mix, Buck Jones, Tim McCoy, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.

But as much as I enjoyed the rip-roaring westerns, I enjoyed the cartoons even more — especially the ones with Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd and the Road Runner.

Understand, please, that I have always detested violence; I don’t like seeing anyone or anything get hurt. But I did (and still do) get a laugh out of watching Elmer lay fancy plans to outwit Bugs Bunny only to see the plans backfire, Bugs win again, and Elmer left fuming about the injustice of it all. Likewise, no matter what is done to outwit Road Runner, he invariably seems to come up with something that lures his opposition into a self-made trap.

So it is with everyday life. More often than not what we say or do is apt to affect our lives or lives around us. Isn’t there a saying, “What goes around comes around”?

King Solomon wisely shared a pertinent thought in Proverbs 26:27: “If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.”

In the Old Testament Book of Genesis, we read of Joseph’s brothers and their intention to throw Joseph into a cistern, but their wickedness backfires. He eventually becomes a powerful leader in Egypt, and the brothers eventually have to plead for Joseph’s help in the face of famine. What goes around comes around.

Have you ever tried to justify something and had it backfire on you? I know I have.

I remember trying to talk my way out of punishment. My dad would listen and nod his head, and I’d “pad” the story a bit, a bit even more, until I worked myself into a trap of untruth so far it was impossible to win. I had dug my own pit with no way to get out. It can happen in a family, in sports and at work.

The time will come that we will all have to face a Father in Heaven to explain our lives. We’ll come up with stories of what we’ve done in life, and we’ll try to justify times we strayed from God’s good ways. But the Lord will allow us to keep building our trap, smiling at us with the greatest of love, allowing us to grow self-assured.

Then suddenly God will confront us with the truth of our lives. Unless we have lived our lives right — in truth and love, and commitment — we will find ourselves “trapped” as much as Elmer Fudd in the cartoons.

Cartoons can be funny, but our life-traps are not.

For myself, I thank a Lord who has loved and forgiven me and has given me hope for the future.

Psalm 40:1-5 tells the story of my life: “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done …”

Bruce Mitchell is a retired United Methodist pastor living in Greenfield. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.