How many coincidences have to happen before it’s not a coincidence anymore?
That’s the question someone posed to me recently. Of course, they were asking the question by way of referring to some conspiracy theory about the world gone bad and the Illuminati gone badder. (Excuse the grammar, I’m trying to make a point here.)
I suppose it’s difficult to convince a person like me to believe in conspiracies. I’m so daft about One World Orders I had to Google Illuminati to figure out what in the world they were talking about. Truth be told, I think one day everybody who has ever embraced these conspiracy notions are going to get to the end of the Yellow Brick Road and find that the only thing there is a graying humbug
Still, I suppose in someways I could be labeled a conspiracy thinker.
I believe that God is the great Conspirator of Goodness.
I believe that God actively puts goodness in our way.
Some days we nearly stumble headlong into it. Other days, when it’s shining on us like a noon-day sun, we turn a blind eye to it. How frustrating that must be for God. It’d be like the parent who has hidden the Easter Egg in such an obvious place but the seven-year-old walks right past it a dozen times before pitching a hissy-fit because she can’t find any eggs.
Ever wonder how many delightful things God had planned for you that you missed entirely because you were so busy pitching a hissy-fit over the thing you couldn’t have?
I do that all the time.
But ever now and again, I recognize the hand of God in the quinky-dink before me.
Like I did when I met Army Ranger SFC Briggs, the fellow I told you about in my previous post. I knew the first day I met him that our encounter was not by happenstance. I knew after our first conversation that God had designed our meeting. I knew it even more when we met again a year-and-half later at an entirely different coffee shop.
I, of course, told SFC Briggs that. And I told his friend Jeremiah that, too, when I met him at the celebratory meal following the end of the 60-hour competition for Best Ranger 2013.
Actually, SFC Briggs had introduced me to his friend Jeremiah during a brief break in the competition on Saturday. Briggs had just finished up a grueling exercise that involved tommy-hawks, grenades, guns and wounded dummies. I didn’t even catch Jeremiah’s name then because everything was so hectic. Saturday had been warm and everyone was trying to get water, and we had baby Sullivan with us. So there was a lot happening.
On Sunday, the weather had turned. It was rainy, cold, windy. Ashley decided to stay back with Sullivan at our friends Dave and Jane Wilson’s home rather than attend the day’s events. So Miz Shelby and I attended without her.
I met Dave and Jane years ago through another one of those God-arranged meetings. Dave and Jane live in my hometown of Columbus, Ga. but they are from Oregon. Jane grew up in Dufur. She is the only person I know at all who grew up in Dufur, Oregon. A beautiful but very small farming community along the Columbia Gorge.
Prior to meeting Jane the only thing I knew about Dufur is that the best man in our wedding — a fellow named Duff — was invited to teach and coach there years ago but his wife didn’t want her husband to be Duff the Dufur coach so he turned down the job.
Anyway, I wrote some piece for my hometown paper that didn’t set well with Jane so she wrote to me and I responded, and our conversation continues to this day. (Why is it people are always surprised when authors respond to their correspondence? If you write to me, I’m going to reply.)
The Wilsons attend a wonderful Methodist church community. The country church has served as their home away from Oregon for many years now. They were at church on Sunday when Miz Shelby and I were huddling underneath an umbrella, trying to keep dry and cheer on SFC Briggs. When a text came in over my phone I handed it to Shelby. I couldn’t read in the blowing rain. It was a note from Dave: “FYI: Tim Briggs’ best friend Jeremiah Richards goes to our church, Dave.”
Wow! Miz Shelby said. How weird is that? The people we are staying with go to the same church as Tim’s best friend.
That might not be so odd if we were in Oregon, the most unchurched state in the nation, but we were in Georgia where churches outnumber juke joints and fast-food establishments.
I agreed with Miz Shelby that did indeed seem quinky-dinky in that God-Conspirator way.
Then I forgot about it.
Until later, after SFC Briggs and SFC Santiago won Best Ranger of 2013. There was, as you might imagine, a lot of hoopla over that win. Miz Shelby and I tried to stay out of the way as these Rangers and their families and friends rejoiced. But then a cameraman came and wanted to take photos of the winners and their families and friends. SFC Briggs asked me and Miz Shelby to join him and SFC Santiago and his family in posing for pictures. Briggs also invited a friend to join us.
Afterwards, Miz Shelby whispered: “Mama, I think this is the Jeremiah that Dave Wilson texted about.”
Jeremiah and I had a brief but intense visit. He said he wanted us all to get together for dinner sometime that week. Dave and Jane said the same thing when Miz Shelby and I arrived back at their place Sunday night, elated because Team 34 had won the competition.
The trouble was, Miz Ash and I were leaving out early Tuesday morning.
No problem, Jane and Dave said. We’ll have a dinner party Monday night.
So right before the award ceremony with Gen. Colin Powell on Monday I asked SFC Briggs if he would join us for dinner at the Wilsons. Of course, he said. During the ceremony, Sullivan grew fussy, so Miz Ash walked the far aisle with him. Sullivan started playing with the wheels on another baby’s stroller. That baby, as it turned out was Christian, the newborn son of Jeremiah Richards, who kept talking to Ashley because he thought he knew her. He thought she was the girl he’d met the day before — Miz Shelby.
The Wilsons spent the entire day making a stupendous meal of garlic mashed potatoes and steak and Sister Schubert rolls, gingersnaps (I want that recipe) and Dave’s homemade fudge ice cream topping. Before the meal Jeremiah Richards, sitting next to his beautiful wife Sheena, led us in prayer. Something along the lines of “Thank you God for awkward encounters…”.
God the Great Conspirator of Goodness and awkward encounters.
You had any of those lately?