It’s A Sign

During our trip to New Zealand and Australia, we had many great conversations about some weighty topics. I have been thinking a lot lately about the last issue we discussed: being a person of faith and having a believing heart. I have wrestled with this issue my entire life, trying to determine what kind of God I believe in and how to increase my faith in that God. Please forgive this very personal post, but I hope that expressing some of my musings on this subject might be therapeutic for me and might stimulate some thought and discussion among my readers.

I admire people who tell me that God has a plan for them and that they are placing their lives in His hands. For those people, if something goes right, it was because God blessed them. If something goes wrong, then God needed to teach them something. In one respect, it is an excellent way to live, because it helps to make sense of our chaotic world, as everything that happens does so for a reason. And so, chance meetings or coincidences become all part of God’s master plan.

films that portray miracles. I want to believe in God’s intervention in our lives. In The Cokeville Miracle,[i] for example, when David and Doris Young enter an elementary school and hold students and teachers hostage for several hours before detonating a bomb that only kills the perpetrators, I want to believe the children’s accounts of angels appearing in the school to protect them rather than attributing the deaths of the perpetrators to their own incompetence. But I also wonder why didn’t those angels protect the teachers and students at Columbine, Parkland, Santa Fe, and the many other schools where mass shootings have taken place recently. Why did God apparently answer the prayers of the children of Cokeville but not the prayers of these other victims? Again, in Miracles from Heaven,[ii] Anna Beam, suffering from a rare, incurable disease is miraculously healed following a freak accident. But to those people involved, it’s not a freak accident, but God is intervening in their lives. I want to believe that, too. But why was Anna’s faith rewarded when the faith of so many other sick children appears not to be? About the best I can come up with to explain the randomness of God’s intervention is that, live or die, it was God’s will. I try to take it on faith that God is smarter than I am – that he sees the big picture that I cannot. Or as Isaiah taught, God’s thoughts are higher than mine. I am left to adopt the Ricky Ricardo approach from the old TV show, I Love Lucy, in which he would often turn to Lucy and say, “Lucy, you’ve got some explaining to do.” Maybe someday I’ll have the opportunity to have a similar discussion with God.

Some people will bring them together. The movie, Serendipity,[iii] is based on this premise. Serendipity means finding something of great value when you are not looking for it. In this scene, Eve (Molly Shannon) applies logic to disavow the notion that Sara (Kate Beckinsale) will find her soulmate (John Cusack) through fate since both are engaged to others. Yet, in the end, the five-dollar bill taken from the tip in this scene has a telephone number on it that results in Sara ultimately ending up with her soulmate. It is a fun love story, but hard to swallow in real life unless you are a hopeless romantic:

I believe I found a soulmate in my wife, Janene, and it was definitely serendipitous on my part that I found her. But I am not convinced that God led us to each other or that either of us would not have had a great marriage if we married someone else. Does that make our love any less real or less satisfying?

In this scene from the film, Signs,[iv] the Reverend Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) describes what he sees as the two groups of people in the world: those who experience something lucky and attribute it to God who is watching out for them, and those who believe they were, well, just lucky:

I tend to agree with the two groups of people described by Reverend Hess, but I don’t necessarily believe that everyone in the first group (attributing everything to God) will live with hope while those in the second group (all is chance) will live in fear. I think people in both groups are striving to get through life the best they can regardless of their belief.

While I hope God sometimes has a hand in the things that happen to us, I have adopted more of a Forrest Gump[v] philosophy:

Life just happens, and the important thing is being able to distinguish the difference between what is serious, and what is just life.

Recently, I watched the Broadway musical, Bandstand.[vi] I loved the entire play, but I especially liked this song sung by the mother of the female lead, who learns that her new boyfriend was the cause of her husband’s death in World War II.

  • JULIA (spoken):
  • It was his fault! Ma, he’s here and Michael isn’t and it’s his fault!
  • I want to believe everything happens for a reason-
  • JUNE ADAMS (sung):
  • No, no, no
  • Everything happens, just that
  • Everything happens
  • An event, or a death
  • A catastrophe
  • Any reason as to why
  • Is a reason you supply
  • It just happens
  • Everything happens
  • It’s not fate, no great plan
  • It’s not destiny
  • Putting faith in that cliché
  • Gives your own
  • Free will away
  • When things happen
  • And they will happen
  • You can waste your whole damn life
  • Assigning bits of philosophic meaning
  • To the failures and misfortunes intervening
  • And I’ll tell you what you’ll get
  • Just a lifetime of regret
  • No, no, no
  • There is no reason for why
  • Everything happens
  • It’s the changing of a season
  • It’s a fact
  • And it’s a constant
  • And the only sane response
  • Is to adjust
  • Not to wish it hadn’t happened
  • When it must
  • Now the church will tell you one thing
  • And your friends, perhaps another
  • If I were you I’d listen
  • To your slightly dotty mother
  • Who lost out on her own fair share
  • Of good times and of laughter
  • Listen
  • What matters when things happen
  • Is what happens after

I find great comfort in the words of that song. Maybe what is important is not whether God is directing each step of our lives, but how we react to the things that happen to us, good or bad, irrespective of God’s intervention. If my goal in life is to improve my talents and abilities for the welfare and benefit of my family and others, if my destiny is to become my best, highest self, do I need to know that God is orchestrating every step of the way? I think not.

Perhaps my wife, Janene, said it best: “I have a great deal of faith in the process of life and that living true to my heart and my conscience will be enough. I believe I am a better person for having faced some adversity and done some soul-searching and finding some conviction to stand on my own, with each person finding their own happiness and having their own journey.”

In closing, here is what Anna Beam said she saw while she was unconscious after falling from the tree:

In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter if others believe our personal experiences, as long as we believe them, and act upon them to be better. In other words, it is more important to live a good life than be right. And as Anna says, those that don’t believe us, “will get there when they get there.”

Thanks for listening.


[i] The Cokeville Miracle

  • Production Company: Remember Films
  • Director: T.C. Christensen
  • Screenwriter: T.C. Christensen and Hartt Wixom
  • Starring: Jasen Wade, Sarah Kent, and Kimball Stinger
  • Release date: June 5, 2012

Miracles from Heaven

  • Production Company: Columbia Pictures, Affirm Films, and Roth Films
  • Director: Patricia Riggen
  • Screenwriter: Randy Brown (based on the book by Christy Beam)
  • Starring: Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, and Martin Henderson
  • Release date: March 16, 2016

[iii] Serendipity

  • Production Company: Miramax, Tapestry Films, and Simon Fields Productions
  • Director: Peter Chelsom
  • Screenwriter: Marc Klein
  • Starring: Kate Beckinsale, John Cusack, and Jeremy Piven
  • Release date: October 5, 2001

[iv] Signs

  • Production Company: Touchstone Pictures, Blinding Edge Pictures, and Kennedy/Marshall Company
  • Director: M. Night Shyamalan
  • Screenwriter: M. Night Shyamalan
  • Starring: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, and Rory Culkin
  • Release date: August 2, 2002

[v] Forrest Gump

  • Production Company: Paramount Pictures
  • Director: Robert Zemeckis
  • Screenwriter: Eric Roth (based on the novel by Winston Groom)
  • Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise
  • Release date: July 6, 1994

[vi] Bandstand

  • Lyrics by Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor

 

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