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During my stay in another state, I was offered my host’s only housekey to use while he was at work. The arrangement was not usually a bother because we gathered at another place in the evenings before returning together to his home.
One day, the weather cooled unexpectedly — enough that I decided to return for an extra shirt. The drive to his house took about 20 minutes. There in the driveway was my host, only just arriving himself. He was as surprised to see me as I was to see him. He was in a hurry to retrieve a forgotten item and had expected he would need to climb through a low window to get inside without his house key. (He could have phoned, but apparently thought it a minor inconvenience — not worth bothering me about.) I unlocked the door with his key, saving him the trouble.
Providence is often manifested in such minor events.
It was the only time during my week-long stay that he or I needed to enter the house midday. If either of us had arrived only five minutes earlier or later, so brief were our separate needs to retrieve something, that we would have missed each other entirely. Even had we planned the meeting, different traffic conditions, etc., driving from different locations would probably not have resulted in such a simultaneous arrival. For that very unlikely encounter, my host’s life was just a little easier that day.
In this unimportant event, one can see the interplay of free will and the good Lord’s designs.
There was no direct or noticeable pressure on either my host or me to make the choices we did. I could have driven back to the house an hour sooner or later. (Indeed, I had initially determined to endure the chill without another shirt.) I could have borrowed an extra layer of clothing from my companions or asked to adjust the air conditioning if the outside air was too chilly. I could have stopped for lunch on the way. My host could have phoned to request I come with his key, at least.
But we made the choices we did, when and how we did. And eternal God, Who exists beyond the physical limits of time, Whose brilliance enables Him to create an entire universe of things we scarcely understand, incorporated our free choices into His grand design.
The difference between fate and providence is precisely such inclusion of free will.
Perhaps a simpler example would help. Imagine a mother who knows her children well. They have been taught to share their presents. But when little Kelly is given a bicycle and Joey is given a skateboard, they eagerly rush toward their own gifts. She knew they would. They could wait to play with their gifts later, but choose to play immediately. She knew they would.
The mother did not force them into action, though the opportunities presented reflect her knowledge and her will. She determined the timing and manner of their opportunities. Is that tyranny? Of course not. To give a gift in one way and not another is no more oppressive than give one particular gift and not another.
The Lord’s presence in this world can be witnessed. But His activity is commonly known as the wind is known.
One cannot see the wind. Rather, one sees the things it moves — leaves, clouds, papers, etc. One can feel the wind moving across one’s skin, especially when apart from barriers. Yet it is so common an experience that it is rarely noticed.
Deliberate attention is rewarded, though more in some circumstances than in others. Sometimes the wind is a barely perceptible breeze. At other times it is a hurricane.
An overwhelming storm feels like fate. Our choices and influences can be diminished. But Providence does not erase the humbled spirit. A loving Father does not trample His loving children amid arrangements and directions beyond their understanding.
When all the world comes crashing in chaotic fury, the Creator continues to guide and to listen. The more raucously events swirl around us, the easier it can be to neglect those opportunities and subtle graces. But freedom and grace will never leave us entirely. God is with us and His rule does not oppress. Truth will set us free.Published in