I laughed the minute I realized it: I was setting about to touch up my hair color on the very day my filmmaker son was beginning work on a new movie called...Showing Roots! Because we have had such discussions before I knew what he would say if I told him what made me smile: “Wow, what a coincidence!”
For my part, I've quit using that “C” word. I've lost faith in it, no longer believe in it, and don't want any part of it.
The dictionary defines coincidence as a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time, apparently by mere chance. Because I believe that nothing happens by chance, I don't need a word in my vocabulary that suggests otherwise. In my book, labeling an occurrence as a coincidence is simply an excuse for not looking more deeply into it to find out what God might be trying to say.
For surely God is speaking to us all the time, wooing us, warning us, offering words of wisdom to help us get through our days. But our senses are so tied to the natural word in which we live that our attention is assailed by all the visible details surrounding us that demand our notice. God's voice is lost in the cacophony that surrounds us on a daily basis. But the very world that distracts us away from Him is at His beck and call, and so He uses it to call our attention back to Him.
What jumps out at me in the definition above is the word striking. God has to arrange something out of the ordinary to get us to notice one detail above the rest. The most famous example in the Bible, perhaps, is the bush He set on fire in the desert to catch Moses' attention, a bush that surprisingly wasn't eventually consumed by the flames engulfing it. It was when Moses stepped near to investigate this strange occurrence that God spoke into His life and directed his future.
He simply does the same with us. When I look back at some of the events I have labeled as coincidence in the past I see situations at least as amazing as flaming tumbleweed! And while they worked to catch my attention, too often I shrugged them off after a moment or two of amazed reflection as just one of those things that happen from time to time. Yet it wasn't enough that Moses saw the burning bush...it was his further investigation of the incident that changed the event from a seemingly chance happening to a moment of great significance in his life.
Could it be that the same thing would happen in ours? And why does it matter?
Seated in the back seat of the car one morning recently on the way to church was a man who has the unusual name of “Chance.” My attention was drawn to his name when I mistakenly called him “Chase” and he was quick to set me straight. “It's Chance,” he said.
Since then I've wondered how he came by that name. Was it short for Chancellor, perhaps? Or was it maybe a nickname? Finally I had to ask. He told me that when his mother was pregnant with him she was just learning how to play the game of poker. A friend was explaining to her that when it was her turn she would have the chance to match the previous bet on the table, raise it, or fold the hand. The word so intrigued her that she left the table that evening at the very least with a name for her unborn child. The fact that chance can be synonymous with opportunity is what makes it important in our lives, as well.
Those “Moses Moments” that God uses to get our attention likewise seat us at an imaginary poker table. He has dealt the cards, and the bet is on the table. Now He's waiting to see how we'll play the hand. Will we simply call the situation a coincidence and walk away, or gamely enter into the fray, invest ourselves somehow and turn the next card to see how the situation plays out?
Some are content to go about their days without giving God a second thought. But it mattered greatly to the children of Israel that Moses didn't just walk on by. And similarly there are people in our lives who could be favorably impacted by a decision on our part to delve a little deeper into the seemingly random occurrences that get our notice. I am surrounded on a daily basis by people bound by addictions and lifestyles that they are powerless to escape from on their own. Perhaps God is wanting me to get more involved in somebody else's battle. Like He did with the children of Israel, He will simply do whatever it takes to set His people free. Sometimes those actions begin with ordinary people like you and me. We can shrug off the offer or respond with a willingness to see what God has to say. It's our choice...but also a chance to make a world of difference in somebody else's life.
Maybe that moment is worth another look.
“...Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight - why the bush does not burn up.” When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush...”
(Exodus 3:2-4 NIV)