Monday, May 2, 2011

A Christmas Card in April

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.



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16 comments:

Carol J. Garvin said...

It doesn't sound like your "find" was a coincidence at all. Wherever she is, I'm sure Margaret is being blessed by your prayers.

Cynthia Bruner said...

Beautiful, thank you for sharing this.

Karin Kaufman said...

Thank you, Carol. I agree--in no way was it a coincidence that I found that card. Isnt' it amazing how God watches over the smallest moments of our lives?

Phil said...

God works in mysterious ways! Thanks for sharing this Karin.

Karin Kaufman said...

Thank you, Cynthia.

Karin Kaufman said...

He sure does, Phil!

Amy said...

I had my own "coincidence" the other day. I was able to leave work a few minutes early. I drove home a different way just because I felt like doing something different. And I found myself in a place to help someone when no one else was stopping to help.

I was initially mad because no one else stopped alongside me. And then later, when I realized the divine convergence of circumstances that placed me in that place at that time, I realized I had been given a gift. I had been given that responsibility. How humbling and beautiful. Truly, it boggles the mind.

Karin Kaufman said...

I love that story, Amy. I wonder how many "coincidences" begin as inconveniences. Of course, irritation is usually our first reaction to inconvenience (it is mine, anyway), so I also wonder how many opportunities (and, as you say, gifts and responsibilities) we miss because we're miffed and not paying attention to the situation we've been thrown into because of an inconvenience.

Gina Burgess said...

Karin, I call them God Moments! I have been to the foot of the Throne this morning. Thank you :)

Karin Kaufman said...

Gina, "God Moments" is a great term for these so-called coincidences. They *are* just moments, aren't they? They pass so quickly and they can be so easily missed--or dismissed, if we're determined not to see them (as I used to be)! Thank you for your comment.

Holly said...

Karin, I love the image of "the Great Dance" -- sometimes it seems as if our lives are a series of dancing lessons ;)

Karin Kaufman said...

So true, Holly. It seems like it's one lesson after another. But one of these days we're all going to be great dancers. :-)

Amanda Cabot said...

Karin -- I read your post a week ago, and both the story and your beautiful prose resonated with me ever since. There was a time when I would have called your finding the card coincidence, but now I know better. Thank you for reminding me of just how powerful -- and creative -- our God is.

Karin Kaufman said...

Thank you, Amanda. That means a great deal coming from you. It took me a very long time -- several decades after I became a Christian -- to realize that God is involved and creative beyond our imagining.

Chris said...

Wow. Thanks for reminding me to keep my eyes open and stay alert to the fact that God is always at work in ALL my circumstances. And thanks too for saying it beautifully - both you and your commenters!
Chris Kadey (I'm having a hard time figuring out how to use the choices when I press "Post Comment." For some reason nothing is happening when I choose Google Account, which I do have.)

Karin Kaufman said...

Thank you, Chris. I spent so many years believing in coincidence that I have to remind myself (almost daily) to keep my eyes open for God's work.

I've had the same problem when posting a comment--I write the comment, choose "Google," sign in, then my comment disappears or something else goes wrong. So now I sign into Google first, check the little box that reads "Stay signed in," then do my commenting. That seems to work.

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