Thursday, June 30, 2016
“Coincidence is God's way of being anonymous.” ― Albert Einstein
When I look back on all the seemingly random coincidences in my life, I can see that they all comprised a greased chute into which God dropped me and which had "Made by God" carved into it's side. No single coincidence made a lot of sense at the time, but looked at in their entirety, I must have been really slow or stupid not to have seen the pattern developing. I can state with a great deal of certainty that until February of 2003, the idea of my living all of the last years of my life as a missionary in Africa was nonexistent and I would have laughed at anyone who suggested it. While I was working on my Ph.D. at the University of Arkansas in the early '80s, I had no thought of the ministry as I was also working as a special assistant to the Dean of the College of Engineering. I was going to church and teaching Sunday School, but my plan was to get my degree and teach English at a small, liberal arts college somewhere and wear corduroy coats with leather patches on the elbows and maybe to smoke a pipe. Not quite how things worked out. God did drop a few hints along the way. As part of my job at the College of Engineering, I would fly to Little Rock, Arkansas, every Monday, and teach a three-hour technical writing class at the Graduate Institute of Technology there. I was teaching men and women who had Ph.D.’s in engineering but were having trouble with their writing for the companies who had hired them. Some were from the Federal Arsenal at Pine Bluff, some were from the big Kimberly-Clark plant in Conway, and similar places. I would teach from seven to ten at night, stay at the Coachman’s Hotel (no longer there) on the university tab and fly back the next morning. There were not many people flying from Little Rock to Fayetteville on Tuesday mornings, and sometimes there would only be two or three other passengers on the plane. I went down to the gate about an hour early and decided to have a microwavable cheeseburger for breakfast (it seemed like a good idea at the time). I was alone at the little food stand with only the woman working the stand as company. I suddenly began choking on the soggy cheeseburger. I had a big piece caught in my throat and I couldn’t get it out. The woman was no help as she just pounded on the counter with both hands while yelling, “Don’t die! Don’t die!” I remember passing out and then coming to on the floor with a man holding me. He had performed the Heimlich maneuver and popped the offending piece of cheeseburger out. He handed me a glass of water and asked if I was all right. I nodded, to which he replied, “God must have something He really needs you to do because my plane doesn’t leave for three hours, and I don’t know why I wandered down here.” I got to my feet, asked the woman for a soda, and then turned to thank the man who had saved me life, but he was gone. I never saw him again and never learned his name. The woman said, “He told me to tell you he was a Baptist minister but that’s all.” I was pretty sure that the plane back to Fayetteville was not going to crash because God had had His shot at me and chose not to take it. Looking back, this was foreshadowing of what was to come, but at the time, all I remember was thinking that it had to be a Baptist, didn’t it? God does not do things without purpose, but I am frequently way too slow to see them. Now, it all makes perfect sense. Maybe if you look back a bit, you can see what God has coming in the future for you. Or maybe you can’t because He doesn’t want you to know yet. If God is in your life, it will always be interesting.