I love flying in an airplane at night and looking down at a city all lit up like a Christmas tree, with twinkling streams of red and white lights winding through its heart and branching out on its highways. I think of all the people coming and going in those tiny cars--some happy, some sad, many feeling weighed down with life's responsibilities or worries. I always wish I could call out to them and say, "Whatever’s bothering you, it's not as big as you think it is! God is on His throne. Trust Him."
There's a line in Tracy Byrd's song "Keeper of the Stars" that says, "It was no accident, me finding you. Someone had a hand in it long before we ever knew."
Isn't that a lovely idea? It was no accident. It was planned. Someone had a hand in it. He knew long before we did.
This time of year I often think about Mary and what it must have been like for her that first Christmas. The entire Old Testament looks forward to the coming of Messiah. For Israel, it was never a matter of "if" but "when." Now the time has finally come, and Mary knows she carries the Son of God in her womb. But that's about all she knows. The angel Gabriel didn't lay out the whole game plan, and somehow Joseph and Mary missed the bit in Micah about a ruler coming forth from Bethlehem. They're still hanging out in Nazareth and Mary is almost ready to deliver, when Caesar decrees everyone has to go to their home town and be registered. Then, after what had to be an excruciating journey, the city is so crowded they have to stay in a stable.
Have you ever been in a stable? Dirty straw. Animal dung. Not exactly sterile conditions. I imagine Mary thinking, "Now I've done it. I'm giving birth to God's Son in a barn! This can't be good." But then the shepherds show up with news of angelic messengers and good tidings of great joy. No wonder Mary treasured these things, pondering them in her heart. God knew His Son would be born in a barn. The same God who spoke the Bethlehem prophecy through Micah moved Caesar to decree a census. And just to put an exclamation mark on the whole scenario, the One who numbers the stars and calls them all by name set one like a spotlight on His Son, a beacon to wise men then and now.
The Keeper of the Stars. He does according to His will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, and no one can stay His hand. He acts according to His wisdom and for His own glory. It was God's plan for His Son to be born in a stable. It was also God's plan all along--even before the foundation of the world--for His Son to die on the cross.
Mothers dream beautiful dreams for their children. We want them to grow up and accomplish great things for God, and we want them to impress the world in the process. We rejoice over their successes and we grieve over their mistakes. We kiss boo-boos, calm fears, instruct, rebuke, worry, and pray. Then we pray some more. But, even with all that praying, sometimes we forget that God really is in control. That He has a plan. That the Keeper of the stars has numbered our days and our children's days. And that He is not surprised when Caesar decrees a census, or the inn is full, or Herod murders hundreds of babies, or mobs shout, "Crucify Him!"
Thirteen years ago, when our son Jacob was fifteen, he nearly drowned in Caddo Lake. He was under water for at least ten minutes, and it took another twenty minutes of CPR before he breathed. If he didn’t die, doctors said he’d be vegetative for the rest of his life.
This was not what I had dreamed for my first-born son. It wasn't what I prayed for or planned. Where was the Keeper of the stars when Jacob sank below that murky lake water? Why didn't He intervene? How could this be His plan for my son?
When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem, Simeon told His mother that a sword would pierce through her soul. In the days following Jacob's accident, I think I learned a little bit how that feels. Many of you have no doubt felt it as well--pain that cuts so deep it hurts to breathe. But God was there, holding us up and whispering to our hearts, "Watch me. I'm doing something beautiful, and I want you to see it."
So we watched. Even as grief broke our hearts, we watched. And we saw a whole community come together around one wounded boy. We watched Jacob's peers become people of prayer and compassion . . . Blessings can turn up where we least expect them. But it isn't about our expectations. It's about God’s plans.
Tracy's song says, "It was no accident. Someone had a hand in it long before we ever knew." We love those lyrics when they refer to finding our soul mate--perhaps not so much when they're applied to tragedy or loss. And yet, looking back on all the beauty God has created and continues to create through our family's brokenness, I'm convinced more than ever that the Keeper of the Stars is working out His plans with perfect faithfulness. Jacob's near-drowning was no accident. Someone had a hand in it long before we ever knew. That's why I felt compelled to write our story. I wanted to encourage other people to look beyond their pain and trace God's sovereign purposes in their suffering.
Psalm 139 says,
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
We know Jesus was formed in His mother's womb for God's purposes, and all His days were written in His Father's book when as yet there was none of them. The same is true for you, for me, and for our children. Jacob is exactly who God wants him to be--a simple man of deep faith who inspires people to love God purely and to serve others with compassion.
Is this the life I would have planned for him?
No. It's better.
Our daughter, Grace, is four months pregnant with our first grandchild. Monday she and her husband Curtis found out they're having a girl. We're all overflowing with joy and gratitude, hope and expectation. I know Grace is already dreaming beautiful dreams for her daughter. That's what mothers do. I also know she will face some surprises down the road. But God won't be surprised. Even as He knits this little girl in Grace's womb, every one of the days formed for her is already written in His book.
The Keeper of the Stars has it all under control. Aren't you glad? I know I am.