Matthew 14: 22-31
“The boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.”
The disciples had a plan. They planned to get in a boat and take a nice, uneventful ride across the Sea of Galilee. After all, Jesus had sent them on ahead of Him alone. And surely He wouldn’t send them into a storm, right? Their plan certainly didn’t include roaring wind, pounding rain, and battering waves. The plan didn’t include a ghost-like figure coming at them on the water. Peter didn’t expect to walk on water. God’s plan, however scary and confusing, ended up being so much better and fulfilling for Peter and his faith. His ways are not ours. They are bigger, they are better, and they are perfect.
We make our own plans all the time. I’m a huge planner. I make to-do lists almost every day, and lots of times the last thing on my list says “Make tomorrow’s list”. I’ve always said that I trust in the Lord, that I believe He is in control, and that His timing is perfect. I’ve thought that I believed that, but I had never really been tested in that belief…until my sister had a storm of her own to face.
This is Hannah and Jayson’s story.
Our family is so close, especially the three sisters. Amy was eight and I was five when Hannah was born, and we always “helped” take care of her. When she was a newborn baby, Amy “helped” with her all the time—moving her and picking her up at crazy angles. When she started school, I “helped” her learn to read and do math problems during the long summer days. I also took it upon myself to use my own invented method of teaching her to play the piano. I wrote numerals on her fingers and taped numerals on the piano keys and then numbered out songs for her to play. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t enjoy it and catch on as quickly as I thought she should, and I soon gave up on her becoming a Mozart. Amy fixed her hair (and got kicked in the shin), I pulled the raisins out of her Raisin Bran, and, although we had our regular sister-spats (Mama, she ate the last pickle and she knew I wanted that pickle!), we all three grew up to be best friends.
Chris and I had the first grandchild of the family. We weren’t expecting him, but Parker was a delight to the whole family. It was like he had three mamas instead of just one. Amy and Hannah fed him and held him and played with him and loved him like he was their own little boy. Not too long after Parker arrived, Amy and Brian had their first little boy, Tanner, who was quickly followed by our second son, Peyton. Now, my parents, who had three daughters, had three grandsons! The “Three Musketeers” had three loud, boisterous, playful years before Amy and Brian had “Baby Jacob”. While all of these boys were growing and thriving, Hannah and Jayson had gotten married, built a beautiful house, and decided that they were ready to add a baby to the mix of happiness. We all agreed. Yes, this was a great plan. And, what if it was a girl? Happy day! A girl would be a perfect addition to all of those boys!
Our plans are not His plans. Our ways are not His ways. One month turned into two. Two months turned into three. Three months turned into a year. Time went on but no baby came. Doctors, nurses, and specialists all had plans. But their plans didn’t work. Hannah, the baby who we’d “helped” take care of, the sister who had loved and taken care of our babies, didn’t have one of her own. Yet. You see, our plans are not His plans.
After some time, Jayson and Hannah felt like the Lord was leading them to adoption. We all braced ourselves. We wouldn’t get too excited. If Hannah and Jayson had a possible lead, we’d pray about it and be supportive, but we wouldn’t get in over our head with emotion and anticipation, just in case the situation fell through. And we had several leads…and each time, we clapped and squealed and hugged and thought to ourselves “This is it. Their baby is almost here!” And each time the situation didn’t work out, we were devastated. Most of all, Hannah and Jayson were shattered every time.
After one particular time, when I just knew that a situation was “the one”, and it didn’t work out as we’d planned, I remember saying to the Lord “I don’t see why this is happening. If You knew she wasn’t going to get the baby, why did You let these people contact her?” I wasn’t mad. I was genuinely confused. But His plans aren’t our own. You see, His plan for Hannah and Jayson was so much better than the one they’d planned for themselves. It was better than what we’d planned and dreamed for them.
His plan was Baby Carter.
One afternoon, Hannah came home from work and answered her ringing phone. When she heard the adoption agency worker’s voice saying “Congratulations, Mrs. Sparks, you’re having a baby!”, she sat down and cried. Not just a little. She cried tears that she’d been waiting for years to cry. It’s the happy, scared, excited tears that come when a mom hears the doctor say for the first time, “Yes, you’re expecting a baby.” They soon found out the baby was due in July and that it was a boy. Another boy in the family!
I prayed so hard that the birth mom wouldn’t change her mind. I prayed for this every time I thought of Carter or Hannah or Jayson. “Please, Lord, don’t let her change her mind.”
I didn’t even think about praying for a safe, complete pregnancy.
When evening came…the boat was already a considerable distance from the land, blown by the waves and wind.
Late one Friday night in April, Hannah and Jayson got a call that Carter was going to be born via emergency c-section due to the birth mother’s dangerous blood pressure. He was 29 weeks gestation. Hannah and Jayson, along with our parents, dropped everything and raced to Jacksonville, Florida, where he was going to be born.
The night was pitch black and stormy. It rained—hard—the entire nine hour drive to the hospital. My mother said it was like being in a black tunnel and not being able to see an end to it. Hannah said they prayed the whole way. We prayed at home too. I didn’t have many words. I couldn’t think past “Please let him live. Let him live.”
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
It was hard to see the Lord’s hand in those moments. It was hard to understand His plan. But His plans are better than ours.
Carter Ray Sparks was born on April 19th. He weighed 2 pounds and 5 ounces. He was fourteen inches long. He was a tiny perfect miracle.
You know, going back to the disciples in the boat, I don’t know that I would’ve been like Peter. When He realized that Jesus was not a ghost, his fear turned to a kind of longing. I imagine his heart started pounding from desire to be with the Lord instead of fear. “I’m really gonna do this. This is it. Getting out of the boat…”
“Lord, if it’s You,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
Then he got out of the boat and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
Hannah and Jayson had to step out of their comfort zone and get out on the water and trust Jesus. They went in the hospital, actually had to meet total strangers, and say, “Yes, we’re the ones who are going to be the parents of the child you just gave birth to.” They were first time parents and they took one look at their baby, who had tubes coming from all over, who could fit in their palm, who would later be on a ventilator and have a battery of tests and procedures, and knew that he was their son. He was the reason that God had planned for them to wait for so long. They hadn’t waited for years for just “a baby”. They had been waiting for Carter, their son. And now he was here. Earlier than we’d planned, but just on time with God’s plan.
But when Peter saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried out “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and saved him.
Carter stayed in the hospital for nine long weeks. Those weeks were full of ups and downs, like waves on a stormy sea. He went back and forth on the ventilator and had tons of poking, prodding, sticks, and tests, but overall he did great. He’s a fighter! There came a time where everyone else in the family had to go home and Hannah had to stay at the hospital all by herself in a strange city. Jayson had to go home for work. His house was empty, with no wife and baby yet. The storm was raging and the noise was pounding. Like Peter, I’m sure the noise turned their heads from Jesus a few times and they felt like they were sinking. But as soon as they called out to Jesus, He immediately reached out His hand and saved them. It may have been a good report from the doctor, a prayer with friends, a note in the mail, or just a calm assurance that He was there and He was in control.
When the disciples were out to sea and the storm was beginning to blow in, they were afraid. They couldn’t see Jesus through the storm. But guess what?
He could see them. He knew exactly where they were. And He was with them, just like He was with Jayson, Hannah, and Carter.
To be completely honest, I couldn’t figure out why God allowed Carter to be born so early after all that Hannah and Jayson had been through. There were times when I couldn’t see Him, when Hannah and Jayson couldn’t see Him in the situation, but He could see them. And He had a plan that was so perfect.
In our plan, we worried over Hannah not getting to have a baby of her own. We hated that she wouldn’t know what it was like to carry a baby, to feel it kick her tummy. In our plan, we worried and agonized when Carter was born so early. We worried when Jayson had to come back home to work. We worried about Hannah being alone. But God had a plan.
Day after day, Hannah held her little baby against her tummy when he would’ve been in another’s tummy. She got to feel him kick her ribs and her belly each day in a special time that was just for mother and baby. He got to hear Hannah and Jayson’s voices and prayers when he was only at 29 weeks gestation. Now, he turns his head to find their voice even when he’s in a room full of people. God’s plan for Hannah and Jayson was Carter, and what a perfect plan it was!
“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:27-28
God’s plan is so much better than our plan. Yes, it’s confusing and fearful and even painful at times. And there are some things we will not understand until we reach Heaven. But for those things, it is so comforting to know that even when we can’t see Him in our noise and storms, He can see us. And His way is better than ours.
This is a new song I wrote called “Walk to You”. Take a listen…