Friday, August 8, 2008

God or Coincidence?

Life is full of those weird moments when you wonder what the heck is going on - like when a friend calls on the phone at just the moment you were thinking about them, or you find $20 in the washing machine as you are whining about no money for that cafe mocha from Starbucks, or the perfect song plays while your ipod is on shuffle, or there is a snow day at school on the only day that you have not finished your homework. I think you get the picture. The question is, are these occurrences happenstance or are they the work of the Divine hand? I suspect that at one time or another, everyone has entertained this question. What do you think?

The youth minister at our church has been called to another position so as the kids begin the new year, they are without a youth minister. In the interim, four of the teenagers will unite to lead the group until the position is filled permanently. One of the things that the youth group does when they gather on Wednesday evenings is direct theological questions to the youth minister. He answers and then entertains discussion in the group. He is now trying to prepare the four youth leaders to respond to such questions from their peers.

Erin is one of the youth leaders and her question this week dealt exactly with the question at hand - is it coincidence or is it God? She responded by saying that if you are always looking for God then you will always find him/her. If you're not looking then you won't. Does that then make it coincidence? If you believe in the power of God can anything be coincidence?

Coincidence is defined by as two or more events occurring at the same time presumably by mere chance. Presumably? That does not help us here. Why is that word "presumably" even in the definition? Presumably means that I have to presume that things happened due to mere chance. Presume based on what? Based on the fact that God is too busy to worry about manipulating the shuffle on my ipod, too busy to make sure my kids leave their money in the pocket of their jeans rather than in the wallets, or too busy to keep track of my neediness factor so that He can nudge a friend to call at just the right time? What if I don't presume anything?

To presume means to take for granted or assume without any warrantable evidence. What am I taking for granted if I assume that something is purely coincidental? There is a God? There is no God? This definition of coincidence conjures up more questions than answers.

The academic in me loves wallowing in the questions, but the realist wants some answers, some good answers. What information do I need to determine if something is God or coincidence? As I sit here thinking about this, I realize that there is no information, or studying, or innate knowledge that will help me make sense of this question. Proof, one way or the other, does not exist.

In the absence of concrete data, I have to turn to faith, faith in a divine being, faith in God. Once I rely on my faith, the answer seems so simple. Nothing happens without God's hand setting it in motion. Therefore, unless God is out sourcing and the right hand has no idea what the left hand is doing, for me, there is no such thing as coincidence. These strange occurrences now become not coincidences but signs from God. Perhaps they are like those orange road signs that say Caution. Work Zone.