Coincidence? I think not

Happy May everyone! This month’s column is a venue for me to not only share my faith with you, something I have been so blessed to be able to do, but to also share my pride. This month my brother graduated from the University of South Carolina, an achievement that I was able to witness the culmination of in a wonderful ceremony just this past weekend. After four years of living away from home, of navigating his own academic waters, and discovering himself through the relationships he’s built with peers and mentors, Jon is a college graduate with a bright and promising future, and I couldn’t be happier. 

And this journey, at least from my perspective, is yet another way in which we can see God hard at work. Folks, nothing is coincidence. In a book I recently read, one of the characters talks about coincidence, posturing that maybe nothing that happens in our life is ever a coincidence. For example, she says, “If you want a cheese sandwich and you get a cheese sandwich, that can’t be a coincidence, can it? And by the same token, if you want a job and get a job, that can’t be a coincidence either.” 

Now, I think she’s on the right path here, but she’s leaving out a major proponent here: God’s presence in our lives. Sure, I could have the cheese sandwich, but I would probably have to make it myself. Lord knows cheese sandwiches don’t just appear out of nowhere. And if I wanted a job, well then, I would have to research the position, write a cover letter and fill out an application, and follow up with a phone call. Those things yield results, maybe not always the ones we want, but we were striving for something that we worked towards and if we achieved it, then there doesn’t seem to be much room for coincidence if we put all of our efforts in. 

However, they’re also not coincidence because somewhere down the line, there was an intervention. We bumped into someone in the supermarket on our way to get bread for our sandwich, someone we hadn’t seen in years, who had something important to tell us. That job we wanted and were hired for came after high recommendations from a college professor we thought loathed us. So where am I going with this? Our lives are a series of encounters with God when we least realize it, that often get attributed to mere coincidence.

I opened with Jon’s graduation because I think his journey after high school and into his undergraduate career has been evidence of that very statement. After planning to go down to South Carolina with a close friend, he found himself enduring the second semester of college without that person by his side, after he decided to pursue college closer to home. Coupled with the notification that he was not to be granted student housing the following year, only his sophomore year, the question became whether or not Jon would move home and attend a more local school. 

Alas, after lots of research and touring of student apartment complexes, it was decided that he would remain at USC and live off-campus with a friend he had made during that first year. And so, he moved into an apartment where he lived until the past year, where he made another move into a house with friends who had been looking for roommates. During these past few years, Jon shifted his focus from journalism to a more specific scope — public relations — and found work at a local after-school program. He learned the value of true friendship, hard work, and commitment to studies and also relationships. Now, how, you may ask, am I drawing this connection to the aforementioned coincidence discussion? 

Because as much of Jon’s experiences were dependent on him really making the effort to succeed, so also was God present. What if Jon’s friend hadn’t been looking for a roommate at his apartment after that stressful first year? What if he hadn’t met his girlfriend? What if he had never been offered two jobs in the course of two months? What if he had never worked in the after-school program? Well, respectively, he may have transferred and thus never entered into some of his closest relationships. He might still be discovering the beauties and struggles of a committed relationship. He might be unemployed and struggling to find work. He may have never discovered his passion for working with youth and families or met people who would introduce him to the nonprofit sector and thus instill in him a passion for work in that field. 

And the crazy thing is, each decision Jon made, each challenge he was presented, was preceded by circumstances completely out of his control. Our lives are only a mere piece of the puzzle; everyone else’s lives are compiled with their own series of questions and answers, clear choices and harder decisions. It is when those questions are answered and the decisions are made, one way or another, that they intersect with our lives. In my head, these constant intersections are all part of God’s bigger plan for us and our lives. This plan isn’t something that we ourselves can see. Sure, we may think we see how our lives are going and think that God has certain things planned for us, but just when we think we have it down, we are set on a completely different path. 

Maybe this path is nothing we would ever pick for ourselves, maybe we won’t see its significance in our lives for years to come. But take comfort in your faith: God would never steer you wrong. He may take you down the winding road, but He will be there right alongside you, in the people you meet, the opportunities you are presented with, and the love He has for us each and every day. Jon, congratulations on a successful four years. I know you’ll do great things — how could you not with God by your side!

Anchor columnist Renee Bernier is a Stonehill College graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology.

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