It was God’s plan, but I didn’t see it at the time. It was only 19 degrees outside and dark, given that it was still 5:30 in the morning. I vividly remember the image—the mental video if you will—of our little jon boat flipping over, dumping me and two other men, including my oldest son, and all our gear into the thick, ice covered, Arkansas pond. In a very real sense, this was a life-threatening situation.
Our chest-high waders, designed to keep water out while duck hunting, now filled with freezing cold water. Multiple layers of clothes, fully soaked, almost instantly began to ice over. We needed to get out, to get warm, and right now.
We were able to hold on to the upside-down boat not knowing at first how deep the water was. Fortunately, we found our footing to stand up, but we were still up to our armpits in water. Wading the 25 plus yards back to shore required breaking the ice with our elbows and fighting for every step on the muddy bottom. In that moment, our complete attention was on surviving the crisis and getting warm, but God saw a bigger picture.
My two sons and I had driven over 12 hours for a two-day hunt along the famed migratory duck patterns of the Mississippi River. The previous day, very windy conditions led to a poor hunt, and by all appearances, it seemed our second and final scheduled activity had become a virtual disaster. Soaked and freezing, we were able to find our way out where my youngest son was now waiting with a warmed-up truck. We were safe, but in the moment, the trip seemed wasted. At least from a hunting perspective.
This trip had been planned for months. Our boys had even given me a new shotgun for the occasion, which now sat at the bottom of the muddy, frozen pond. The prime hunting time of the day was gone. I thought, all we were going to bring back home was a good story, a few memories, but not much duck.
Because of the “incident”, our hunting guide company brought one of their employees back in on his day off to help us recover and get our gear cleaned up, including my mud-saturated shotgun that had somehow gotten fished out of the drink. They even arranged for us to have an additional evening hunt to compensate for our troubles. The offer was welcomed, but it now meant us driving back through the night instead of our planned afternoon departure. I had mixed feelings. I was happy for the extra hunt, but I had really looked forward to the time in the car with our sons. The time together, just the three of us talking and sharing stories, had been the most anticipated part of the trip for me, but an overnight drive would certainly change the opportunity for conversation.
That final evening, we were saying our goodbyes after cleaning up from our bonus hunt. I recall subtly praying, while thanking the staff, asking God to redeem my time with the boys on the ride home since the trip had certainly not been what we had expected. Nick*, the guide who had come in on his day off, came by to speak with me. While helping us clean up, he had shared stories of being with his wife, Emily* at her Ob/Gyn appointment that morning. She was expecting their first child and seeing the ultrasound pictures had made him simply giddy with excitement. He now simply asked, “Are you a Christian?”
Nick and I had hardly spoken to each other prior to this. I don’t know how he even knew to ask. I had simply overheard his excitement about being a new father. We certainly hadn’t spoken about God, the Bible, or anything related. Now, he’s asking straightaway about my faith. I tell him that I am a Christian and ask how I can be of service. “Please come with me”, he asked. Walking down the hall of the hunting lodge, he stops outside a bedroom door. “My wife has had a miscarriage. Would you please come pray with us?”
We go in to find Emily in bed, weeping. She is a pediatric nurse and fully aware of what’s going on medically. But she and Nick are needing help coming to grips with the emotional and spiritual weight of the situation.
Just this morning, they were watching their baby on the ultrasound. Nick had even brought pictures to show his colleagues after getting called back in to work, bringing Emily with him to hang out at the lodge. Now, they need to have the hard conversations. They need to know, “Why did this happen? Where is my baby now? What do we do now?”
In the brief time we had together, they were assured that their baby was now with God Himself, in heaven, fully alive for all eternity. We spoke of the fragility of life and the need to submit our lives to Jesus in faith. We spoke of finding hope in the scriptures and fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. We were able to pray and find comfort in the healing presence of the Holy Spirit. Since our time together, we’ve been able to speak a couple of times by phone, and I pray that God continues to move in their lives. I ask for your prayers as well.
As we headed out to the car that night, I was overwhelmed by what had just occurred. Certainly, I was deeply burdened for Nick and Emily, but I was even more in awe of what God had orchestrated. He had me drive over 800 miles, dumped me into a frozen pond, and brought a husband and wife in on their day off, so that we could be together in their time of need. It was God’s plan all along.
Scripture tells us that God is always at work (John 5:17). He is orchestrating all thing for His glory and for His purposes (Matthew 10:29-31; Romans 8:28-39; Ephesians 2:10). Sometimes we see it as it happens. Sometimes we see it in hindsight. Sometimes we don’t see it at all, but rest assured, God has you here —now—for a purpose. Pay attention, God has a plan, and you are part of it. Pray that He will use you today!
(* names changed)