By Steven Norris
My mother has been known to start up conversations with complete strangers in the grocery store. A few years back, she called me with a strange story of a “chance encounter” with a young lady in the coffee aisle.
I still don’t know exactly how the conversation progressed, but she told this young lady about a mission trip that my wife and I were taking to Turkey later that year. This lady proceeded to explain that she had grown up on the mission field and that her parents were still missionaries in the Middle East. She and her husband had been praying about how to use a little money that they had saved and she wanted to send it to us to help with our trip.
Fast-forward about 9 months and we found ourselves in a restaurant in Antalya, Turkey, sitting across from a wonderful missionary couple. Over lunch, we told them the story of how their daughter met my mother in the coffee aisle of a Memphis grocery store and how she had helped make it possible for us to be at that conference leading worship. If that had been the only providential meeting, it would have been incredible, but the week was filled with similar encounters that I don’t have space to recount here.
Many people experience life as a series of seemingly random decisions and chance circumstances. Rarely do we get those opportunities to step back and see the scarlet thread of God’s providence weaving throughout the chaos. However, every now and then, the Spirit pulls back the curtain and reveals that we are part of something bigger than we realized.
One of my favorite passages of scripture is found in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. After giving a long litany of what we might call “heroes of the faith,” the writer of Hebrews closes out the chapter with this:
“Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours” (Hebrews 11:39-40).
If our mission trip to Turkey taught me anything, it is that our lives are caught up in a larger story that God is telling. We are not the only characters. In fact, we may not even be the main characters of this story. However, we all have a part to play.
The beauty of providence is that, in God’s divine wisdom, my part can fit together with your part, which fits together with the lives of believers around the world and across the spectrum of time, to create a beautiful tapestry of salvation. Sometimes that part means answering the call to go and serve. Other times, it means being open to a conversation in the coffee aisle and investing in two strangers seeking to answer God’s call. Whatever part you are called to play, know that we are called to play it together.