Sometimes little serendipitous things happen that make you pause and consider how life is made of more than chance and circumstance. At crucial points in my life, the veil that hides the heavens has parted just slightly to reveal that not everything in life is random - that we are connected to something or someone greater than us who is aware of us and interested in helping us along.
These vistas of clarity are often small, and though they may seem silly or meaningless to others, they are of great significance to us. My first few weeks of falling in love with Emily were filled with little "coincidences" that somehow added up to more than chance. We had lived in the same little corner of Idaho at the same time early in childhood and remembered that old steel bridge along the road and the playground near the penny water. I sang that beloved song that Emily's father sang to her when she was little, though she had scarcely heard it since. We had very similar reactions to nearly identical experiences from our missions though we both previously felt quite sure that these experiences were unique. Both of similar upbringing, with older sibling of the opposite sex and a younger sibling of the same sex, of the same age differences, and we were the unmarried middle children. As our list of coincidences lengthened, it felt magical and almost uncanny how things matched up.
Sometimes these moments come as deja vu, and they guide us. I wonder whether I would have bought the airplane tickets to Denver for an early Thanksgiving holiday if I hadn't had an unsettling dream about losing someone close to me. I felt the need to spend extra time with family, and so Emily and I arrived in Denver in time to see dad one last time that weekend before Thanksgiving. We had called from the airport to ask him the score of the Harvard-Yale football game, and the results were still there on his computer a week later. We were in the house that Monday morning when my mom nearly collapsed under the weight of that tragic call and had to go to school to inform the children. It wasn't until Christmas in Emily's parents' house that I had the deja vu moment, sitting at the kitchen table with little Gavin in my arms feeling the pain of losing someone close, that I realized I was living the exact scene from my dream of several months before. I told Emily, who remembered me awaking her to tell her the dream, and we cried silently and thoughtfully together.
I remember reading an autobiographical account of my Dad's good friend, Timber Dick, who is now also in heaven with my Dad, where he described the little "signs" that he received on his personal search to find God. A significant part of Timber's conversion to faith was the realization that not all in life is chance. There is something larger than us just beyond our field of view, except that from time to time we are afforded a glimpse if we are quick enough to see.
In a moment of joy this week I experienced another coincidence. I came in from a long day's work and was overwhelmed by the exuberant greeting from my two sons at the door. I was so pleasantly stunned by their cries of joy and welcome that I didn't even take a step beyond the threshold - merely closed the door and sank to the floor against the wall of our entryway. Little Eli tucked his head in against my ribs and held me tight. Gavin gleefully sang my name and climbed up on my knee. As I looked for something joyful to share in return, I remembered two books of folk songs I had discovered that day in a giveaway pile in our apartment building lobby. Two weeks ago, when Grandpa Nolte was here, I had scoured the Internet to find lyrics and music to these songs, and there they were in a pair of little old songbooks in the lobby, as if God had known we were looking for them! I showed Gavin the books, told him what they were, and randomly opened to a song and read:
Climb upon my knee, sonny boy;
You are only three, sonny boy.
You've no way of knowing,
There's no way of showing
What you mean to me, sonny boy.
You're my dearest prize, sonny boy;
Sent from out the skies, sonny boy.
Let me hold you nearer,
One thing makes you dearer:
You've your mother's eyes, sonny boy.
When there are gray skies,
I don't mind the gray skies;
You make them blue, sonny boy.
Friends may forsake me,
Let them all forsake me.
You'll pull me through, sonny boy.
You're sent from heaven and I know your worth.
You've made a heaven for me right here on earth!
When I'm old and gray, dear,
Promise you won't stray, dear,
I love you so, sonny boy.
By Al Jolson, B.G. DeSylva, Lew Brown and Ray Henderson, 1928
Yes, as you can imagine, in that beautiful moment the words rang so true and meaningful. There was my sonny boy, having climbed upon my knee, only three. It was a small and simple coincidence how it all fell into place, but it was what I needed that day. I held my family close and felt the love of a God that orchestrates miracles and love in a creation that might otherwise seem empty and random.