I like to take my two dogs for a walk in the cemetery near my house. If I get there early enough, I can let them run off leash for a while, and they love that. A month ago, while Sophie and Cooper were chasing squirrels and leaping over headstones, I found a creased and red-stained Christmas card in the grass. There were no headstones in the immediate area, no indication of where the card had come from. I opened it. The words inside were heartbreaking: “Merry Christmas in heaven. I’ll love you forever. I miss you so much.” It was addressed to a man and signed by a woman (I’ll call her Margaret).
About thirty feet from the card, I found an envelope, also stained red. The front of the envelope read “To My Dear Husband.” I imagine the stain came from a Christmas wreath with a red bow—such wreaths were everywhere in the cemetery, even in early April. Snow and rain had leached color from the bow onto the card. Someone had torn open the envelope, removed the card, and tossed them both to the wind. And for some reason I found them. I’ve been praying for Margaret ever since.
So why did I find the card? If you had asked me ten years ago, I would have said it was coincidence. Forget the fact that if I had arrived in the cemetery just one minute later, the wind, which was wild that day, would have blown the card far from the path I always walked. No, like any sensible twenty-first-century woman, I would have invoked coincidence.
But ten years have passed, and I’ve learned something: To believe in coincidence is to deny God’s infinite creativity. Coincidence is the product of a withered imagination. It reduces God to something more manageable in our minds.
Imagine a God who, on a windy day in April, would send a tattered Christmas card blowing my way. Who would allow one of His children the privilege of praying for another of His children and thereby have her take part in the Great Dance. Who would bless my simple walk in the cemetery. It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?
Still, some people prefer chance to a wily, artistic God. There’s safety in coincidence. For one thing, coincidence absolves us of responsibility. If coincidence sent the card my way, there’s no reason I should pray for Margaret. For another, coincidence turns God into a cosmic couch potato with little interest in His creation and no stake in how events play out. We hardly need bother with a God like that. He has no claim on us—and sometimes that’s just the way we like it.
Was God surprised that I took the card as a sign to pray for Margaret? How could he be? Did Margaret need prayer? Yes, I think so. And knowing how I think, the God who controls the wind sent the card my way. Only the unimaginative would call that coincidence.