A coincidence is defined as, “a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection with each other.” There are times in my life when the “apparent causal connection” is what theologians call “the prompting of the Holy Spirit.” For example, one afternoon I decided to stop at the CVS Pharmacy. As I closed the car door I noticed a friend who was walking away from her car, and it was still running! It turns out she had just come from the hospital, her child was asleep in the car and she needed to pick up his chemo prescription. I ended up sitting in the running car while she went to fill the prescription. I had not originally planned to stop at the store but did so because a thought came to me, “You’re driving by this CVS; just stop in here.” How was it that I was at that CVS at the very moment that she needed help? I wonder if she may have asked God in desperation, “What am I going to do here?” For me, in these moments when love and compassion are shared, when two people experience the connection we all share in Christ, it seems easy to credit the work of the Holy Spirit.
I experienced something this summer that falls into the category of coincidence. My Dad was in the hospital, and we had just finished a long conversation about his desire to have a “reasonable death.” The conversation was difficult and yet at the same time so typical of my father to talk about goals and process. It was a beautiful, humidity-free summer day so when I went down for lunch I decided to walk around the hospital campus. I figured all I had to do was keep turning right and I would find my way back. As I turned the third corner I had this sense that I needed to turn back. I kept walking but the feeling became even stronger. Not one to ignore my gut feelings, I turned around.
As I walked back up the very same sidewalk that I had just been down, I happened to look down. There it was: a plastic Coke bottle with the name, “Ryan.” For any other person that name might mean nothing, but to me it was the name of my nephew who died suddenly at age 19 while home from college. I stopped and stared at it for a long time. I even took a picture because, really, who’s going to believe me?
I found great comfort in the presence of that Coke bottle. It reminded me that Dad would be in heaven with others I have loved and lost. It even gave me a sense that God knew my pain and that God would be walking with us through this. Of course anyone who wants to can explain this away as happenstance, but for me, to see that Coke bottle on that difficult day in July, well, it was heaven breaking into my world—if only for a moment. It was a reminder of God’s gracious love and the promise of eternal life.