thoughts on providence

I find that my life is a pasticcio of one ‘coincidence’ after another.


What do I mean by this? For some, it seems as if they have everything planned out and have the ability to follow through with those plans. For others, it seems as if they are free-spirits, floating on the wind of what ever may come their way. For me, I so want to be the first, yet experience some strange confluence of the two. For all my best efforts to the contrary I am dragged along, sometimes kicking and screaming, by the inexorable draw of providence. It is a feeling hard to describe, but one that I am sure everyone with eyes to see inherently knows.

Like I wrote in the previous post, there is a lie I believe which is ‘I can control my life’. I’m not entirely sure as to why I continually return to this idea. It’s never proved itself right. Even in those times when things go exactly as I planned there is always some wrinkle whispering the truth of the matter. Sometimes I can hear this whisper. Sometimes I’m sitting and listening like Elijah. Most times I’m running like Peter, all good intentions poorly placed. “Peter said to Jesus… He did not know what to say…”

Thank God I’m not in control.

The music playing, mixed from here and there, weaves a story of one who’s path is laid down already. Some might call this fate, I call it providence. Is there a difference? You better believe there is. The one is an impersonal, immovable set of events into which one falls without fail. The other is a dynamic, vibrant relational interaction between persons. Even at the etymological level providence implies personality, which is to say, having foresight or precaution requires the ability to interact with varied and varying situations. Though providence does not prove the Christian god, it does provide a context within which to discuss his interaction with ourselves, others, and the world. Providence could be considered the score with which our God is directing the symphony of creation.

I sometimes wish I could know what instrument I play…

I’d like to think of myself as a timpani or first-chair violin, either laying the tempo or leading the melody. But I get the feeling like my part to play is the fourth bassoon, a vital part but never noticed. I should be ok with that. During the interview process for a job I might possibly have in New Hampshire I was asked “Do you think you could be content in a small town place like…?” It was a question which I had thought about, but when asked point-blank by a member of the search committee it took me aback. I answered yes, which was true enough then as is now, but it made me stand up and stare providence square in the eyes. Who’s design for life will I accept? Will some self-wrote, 3 chord lullaby win out over the possible magnum opus? Will the amateur have contempt for the virtuoso? Is there really an option? The theological concept of ‘irresistible grace’ speaks just as well to every choice one makes as it does to the doctrine of salvation with which it’s usually associated. When given a choice between providential grace and our own mud-slung construction we are, thankfully, often gently prodded along by the Spirit. And by gently prodded I mean, grabbed by the collar and lovingly dragged in the right way.

I wonder what the next movement might sound like… something with a bassoon solo perhaps?


5 thoughts on “thoughts on providence

  1. I like what John Piper has to say on this. Stop planning!!! God’s plans will be fulfilled, and it just cuts down on the unfulfilled expectations (idols) we have in our lives.
    I think for you the next movement will sound more like a children’s rhythm band from your kitchen!!!

  2. “Life is not a coincidence. It is a mirror of what your own doing” – that’s what a friend once told me. And it is definitely true.

    We must have plans in life – but not too long-term nor too detail I guess. Because life is always full of surprises, and that is part of the dynamic of life we must enjoy !

    Life is there to be enjoyed with a free-spirit, go with the flow and grab anything un-planned, what ever may come on our way. I think we are meant to do both, to plan as well as to be spontaneous with the ability to adapt to whatever comes on our way.

    What come to us, it is exactly a mirror / a fruit of what we are doing. It is not a coincidence, but it may be a surprise 🙂

    1. @A violinist: I can’t remember where I heard it, but someone once said to me that those who are most likely to do well spontaneously are those who are the most prepared. I think that is so true. We have to be prepared for anything and by that will be able to do whatever might come our way. Another wise person once told me, “Whatever comes your way, consider which option takes the most faith and go with it. In that we will have to trust more in God than ourselves which will then grow us and form us more into the image of Jesus.” That’s a hard thing to do. But I think she is right.

      @Susan Woods: I’m hoping that a rhythm band doesn’t involve denting all our pots… 😉

  3. Sometimes a “few dent pots” is the cost of doing business….

    I’ve discovered the severe mercy of “I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live” to address most of the tension between my way-Your way, Lord……if dead men tell no tales, they also have no will…….

  4. Isn’t the greatest
    possible disaster,
    when you are
    wrestling with God,
    not to be beaten?

    ~Simone Weil

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