I had a year-long temporary resident visa for Mexico when I first came. But I’m here in Mexico for thirteen months. So I needed to make a quick run north to Texas to exit Mexico and re-enter on a tourist visa. Mission accomplished, but none of that is really the story I want to tell. It’s all background.
I’d decided that while I was in Texas over the Easter weekend, in order to make me less bitter about needing to do a red-tape trip rather than a trip for fun (red-tape trips feel like such a waste!), I would hop a greyhound on Saturday to spend the day in New Mexico and check off one of the fifty states I’d never visited. Mission also accomplished, but that’s still also just background to the story I want to tell.
I’d bought my tickets to New Mexico in advance online, and I’d booked a seat on a 9:25 a.m. bus to give myself all day in Las Cruces. For some reason, I was extremely dawdly that Saturday morning—more dawdly than usual (which is saying something!). By the time I got around to booking my uber, it was after nine, and it was at least a twenty minute drive to the greyhound station. It took a few minutes for the uber to arrive, and by then, catching my bus was no longer an option if my uber driver did the speed limit.
My uber driver’s name was Leo. (That’s an irrelevant trivial pursuit fact for you, but it’s what I titled this post, so I may as well throw it in for no extra charge.) Leo was amazing. When he heard what time my bus left, he did not do the speed limit. Maybe that’s not a good quality to look for in an uber driver, but I have to admit, I appreciated it. He didn’t even scold me for being a dawdly idiot. He didn’t need to. I was doing it for both of us. I spent most of the drive berating myself mentally in the backseat and pretty much giving my bus ticket up for lost. Leo didn’t talk much at first. He concentrated on weaving in and out of traffic on the freeway until we were nearing the bus station. When he could see he was going to get me there on time, he relaxed a little and began to chat. Where was I from, he wanted to know. “Canada,” I told him. I seldom get more specific. Who on earth has ever heard of Creston, B.C. if they’re not from there?
So I told Leo, “Canada,” and left it at that. He didn’t ask me, “What part?” Instead, he said the most surprising thing. “I used to spend vacations in a little town called Creston, B.C.” he said. I unhinged my jaw like a python going in for a large snack. I could hardly believe my ears. Then, Leo proceeded to describe the place to me, so I knew we were thinking of the same Creston, B.C. (like, maybe there’s another one that I haven’t heard of? Not likely!) He definitely knew Creston well. My Creston. Of course I explained that Creston was the town I was from and that was the reason for the python-like expression. I’m not sure he believed me, but that’s neither here nor there.
Leo’s dad was from Couer d’ Alene, Idaho which explained his familiarity with Creston. (His mom was from Mexico. And he lives in Texas. I would have liked to get more of his story—I’m sure it was interesting—but I had a bus Leo had broken laws for me to catch.) So I thanked Leo quickly and ran for my bus.
Turns out, when I had purchased my tickets online, I’d bought them for the Saturday a week earlier than I needed them. I’d already missed my bus. By a week. But the driver let me on for no apparent reason, anyway. And off we went.
Once seated on the bus, I was finally able to cogitate a little, and Leo and his sojourns in Creston were fresh on my mind. Then, I started to get all philosophical about Leo and his sojourns in Creston.
I soon arrived at the conclusion that none of what had taken place all odd-morning-long was coincidence. For one thing, I don’t believe in coincidence. Like, at all. I’m not even an agnostic about coincidences. I am strictly an acoincidentist. I actively disbelieve in them.
That is, as a life’s philosophy. On a day-to-day basis, while I still reject the idea of coincidence, I accept the idea that I’ll likely never get to see most of the reasons behind the weird-and-seemingly-meaningless happenings that we term “coincidence.” But I still (philosophically) hold to the idea that there are reasons. For everything.
Obviously, my acoincidentist beliefs are not disconnected from my Christian beliefs, but quite a lot of other Christians manage to be both coincidentists and Christians, so I’m just weird that way, I guess. But I do happen to believe that God cares about (and cares to the point of managing and arranging) even the minute details. Of everything. (Though I do believe in freedom of the will, but we’re not rabbit-trailing into tiptoeing through the TULIPs right now, I can promise you!)
The God of the Bible has every hair on my head numbered. He knows how many were in that handful I pulled out of my comb this morning, and He has successfully subtracted that number from the number that used to be on my head. The God of the Bible can be in charge of the infinitely big because He’s in charge of the infinitely small. He’s infinite. And infinite runs both ways.
Now, obviously, I live my life as a practical coincidentist. I mean, I don’t look for the deeper meaning behind everything; behind the handful of hair in my comb or the reason I just committed a typo or why I have an old coffee stain on the (clean! Really!) shirt I’m wearing at present. I mean, I just live my life, as regards the really small stuff, trying not to think too deeply about it for the most part. I don’t stress about what I’ll put on when I get up in the morning (a shirt with a coffee stain today, apparently) or what I’ll eat for breakfast. I don’t ask for divine guidance and seek to discern God’s will over that kind of minutiae. That way lies the loony bin. The fast track to it, in fact.
But every once in awhile, something significant enough to make me sit up and take notice grows out of something as insignificant as the coffee stain on my T-shirt or the muesli I had for breakfast. (I eat that every morning, so that’s not even mildly out of the ordinary. Maybe the coffee-stained T-shirt isn’t either, now that I think about it.) Like my Saturday-morning dawdling (also entirely in-the-ordinary) enabling me to catch, just at the right moment, not the uber driver I would have caught if I’d been on time, but an uber driver named Leo who picked Creston, B.C. out of thin air as the one place he knew in Canada to talk to me about. It was sooo weird that I thought there just may be some deeper meaning that I was actually meant to decipher in the strange happening.
The only message from God I could see in the whole event was the reminder that I don’t actually, as a life’s philosophy, believe in coincidence (even though I live, for all intents and purposes, as though I do). I wondered if God might be trying to remind me of that fact that I forget often (for all intents and purposes).
After I arrived in “Las Cruces” (which wasn’t really, but instead was a bus stop/gas station/convenience store on the outskirts of nowhere which is where the bus to Las Cruces stops), I realized I might not want to spend the whole day I’d been planning in New Mexico. Fortunately, I’d bought a ticket for last Saturday anyway, I wasn’t planning on testing my luck again by trying to get back to Texas on an outdated ticket, and I felt quite justified in buying a new ticket for the first bus back that I could get. I’d successfully earned my checkmark over New Mexico on my map of the fifty states, so I was quite happy to get back to Texas as soon as possible. It still meant, I think, five or six hours exploring the little piece of New Mexico that I had unwittingly chosen to see. I spent about three of them walking around the countryside, soaking in the sights of farms and trees. I’ve been very countryside-deprived where I live now, so that wasn’t a bad thing. I spent the remainder of them sitting in the shade of the trees of a ballpark that I had to myself all day. And thinking. Shady trees and time alone to think–also not a bad thing. (But I’ll come back to my day in New Mexico and that train of thought I was riding after we ride the bus back to Texas and stop there, briefly.)
So I returned to Texas a few hours ahead (though one week late) of my original schedule. I tried to catch an uber from the bus station back to the guest house where I was staying, but the wifi at the greyhound station was too weak (and I do all that kind of thing from my iPod and require a pretty decent wifi connection for it). It was around my suppertime. I was getting hungry. So I decided to take a short walk around the greyhound station neighbourhood to look for some fast food and free wifi. I found both. But I also found another encounter that looked as though it had God’s fingerprints all over it. The specifics aren’t relevant to the story. I’ll just tell you that I, again, was reminded that there are no coincidences and was happy that I’d received that message earlier in the day so that I would recognize this encounter for the non-coincidence it was when it appeared in front of me. Again, details as insignificant as the earlier arrival time (thanks to my original idiocy in booking my first ticket), the shoddy wifi at the greyhound station, and my weakness for Taco Bell (yes, even after having lived in Mexico for a year) all culminated into an encounter that seemed significant enough to consider, well, significant.
Now, I’ll take you back to New Mexico and the thinking I was doing in the shade of the trees of the ballpark. Along the lines of “No coincidences,” the verses in Joel about God restoring the years the locusts had eaten jumped into my head for some reason. I suppose, because when I think about my firm stand against the reality of coincidences, it sometimes takes the form of the saying, “God wastes nothing!” Really? Nothing? The handful of hairs I threw in the garbage after combing them out this morning? The coffee stain on my T-shirt (I’ve gotten a lot out mileage out of that stain, anyway!)? My morning dawdliness? My idiocy in booking a bus ticket for the wrong day (I’ll have you know I’ve never booked a ticket for the wrong day before, just in case you were wondering if this is also a regular thing. I have written down the wrong time and missed a bus before… but that’s another story for another time.)? The shoddy wifi? My Taco-Bell weakness? Yeah, I don’t know about the handful of hair and the coffee stain, but for a brief moment, I saw behind the curtain we call “reality” that keeps us separated from real reality to see some reasons behind all those other tiny bits and bites of my reality that came together that odd day in Texas/New Mexico into some kind of recognizable pattern. It doesn’t often happen that I catch those glimpses.
So when the phrase, “I will restore the years that the locusts have eaten,” jumped into my head there under the shady trees of a New Mexican ballpark, let me tell you why I think it did. Because, whatever other meaning is hidden inside that phrase, I think it certainly holds the meaning, “God wastes nothing!” It was the meaning I saw in it, anyway.
And let me tell you why I think I needed to hear that particular message at this particular time. Because it’s all too easy to look back over my life (especially the past six and a half years of it) and see a barren, locust-devastated wasteland.
I need to know that there is no such thing as coincidence. I need to know that God is in control, and He is good. And He is orchestrating everything—yes, everything—according to His own good plans. Even for my life. Even through all the apparent dead-ends and random bits and bites that don’t seem to lead anywhere or mean anything.
I believe it. But I do, on a day-to-day basis, for all intents and purposes, forget that I believe it.