Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Coincidence or God Incident?

I sat in the Aldi parking lot drumming my fingers on the steering wheel as the gray cloud overhead spit intermittent raindrops on my windshield. Just two minutes earlier, I reached for the “Aldi quarter” in my cup holder and came up with a gum wrapper. I tossed it into the passenger seat and pulled my wallet from the diaper bag. No cash. None. I checked every crevice of my vehicle. Nothing. So I drummed angrily on the steering wheel as if my frustration had the power to manifest spare change.

I already had one of those mornings. Expired milk, spilled coffee, crabby infant, potential downpour. I knew I should have stayed home. But I went out anyway and now there I was in the Aldi parking lot having a very ridiculous “why me” moment. I eventually gathered my thoughts and surveyed my options. None of them was appealing – probably because I was already aggravated.

Meanwhile, Allie’s fussiness had turned into an all out scream fest. Still undecided about how to solve my original problem, I stepped out of the car and went around to Allie’s side. Her pacifier hit the ground as I opened the door. Really?! I bent down to pick it up and there at my feet was a shiny silver quarter.

My in-laws would call that a “God incident.” When I first met Matt’s family almost eight years ago, I didn’t know what that meant. Before then, I had never thought of God as an active participant in my life. The whole concept seemed really far-fetched. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God. I had always believed in God. I just didn’t think God believed in me.

There are just so many of us in the world. There is so much suffering and so many unanswered prayers. It seemed like God should have bigger things to worry about than arranging convenient coincidences and reminders for kindness in my little insignificant world.

Over the years, I slowly grew into my faith. I started reading the Bible and trying to live its message. I began to see real acts of God in my daily life, and instead of nodding along with ignorance when someone said “now that’s a God incident,” I began to smile with understanding.

See, I had always pictured God incidents as isolated events involving intentional interventions on the part of our Creator; as if a Divine hand reached down and placed a pen in my dryer to teach me about grace or perfectly timed the stop lights to prevent my tardiness for an important appointment. Looking at them from a small-scale perspective, it is easy to dismiss the possibility of God’s involvement.

But I have come to believe this about God: He doesn’t operate on a small scale level, nor is His involvement in our lives limited to certain events on certain days at certain times. He is ever-present at all times and in all things. His carefully crafted and perfectly orchestrated universe lends itself to these “coincidences” simply because everything in it is entangled in a web of simultaneous existence. The complexity of that existence and the depth of our connection to it are revealed to us in the events that those of us who don’t yet know better would call “coincidences.”

Today, I know better. That’s why I sat crouched in the Aldi parking lot whispering a prayer of gratitude to the Great Orchestrator. It’s not that I think God knowingly placed a quarter under my car to offset my crappy morning. It’s that I believe He created a world that allows the lives of the dropper of a quarter and the finder of that quarter to overlap for a single moment in time. And I believe that if you can see God’s presence in the smallest of things, you can begin to find Him anywhere and everywhere.

Now that I know how to spot His work, God shows up in my life every day. Sometimes He leads me to small things like quarters in parking lots. Sometimes He leads me to big things like houses and jobs. Sometimes it’s a surge of grace and compassion, comfort and healing, or courage and strength on the right day at the right time. Sometimes it’s the urge to give, the will to forgive, or the power to carry on amid the struggles He needs me to face. His form often changes but His presence never does. 

Over time, faith and patience have slowly begun to take the place of the worry and urgency in my life. My last paycheck will hit our account this week, which means the small gap in our income will soon return. Last week I opened an email from some friends who are moving to our subdivision this summer. They wanted to know if I would be interested in watching their three-year-old daughter three to four days a week through the school year. I always said I had absolutely no interest in taking on someone else’s kid unless it was part-time excluding summer for someone I knew who was the same age as Reese. Coincidence? Of course not. 

In the moments where you find your life perfectly overlapped with another, whether it affects you for a single moment or the rest of your days, you can assume the events happened at random and walk away feeling puzzled. That's a coincidence. OR you can recognize your significant role in the complicated web of existence, whisper a prayer of gratitude, and walk away feeling blessed. That’s a God incident.


  1. This made me smile. My family would call it a "God wink"

  2. I agree on that! It reminds me of something on the past.