I have always struggled to believe in coincidences.
When I was growing up, I found it easier to believe in a perfectly orchestrated world where everything happened for a reason (even when I didn’t understand why) and nothing happened by chance. Over the years, trusting in a faithful and sovereign and loving God has made that small and innocent belief flourish into a confident hope and expectation.
But every now and then, I forget. I forget who God is, and I forget that He’s ultimately in control. Sometimes, I even forget how deeply and intimately He loves me. And when I forget, the Lord is always gracious to remind me…
Last night I had soccer training. Everything was great—the technical drills, the shooting practice, and the small-sided scrimmage we played to end off the session. But during the scrimmage, I injured my ankle. At the time, I thought nothing of it, so I simply stretched it out and tried to “rub some dirt in it.” After practice, I met up with a few of my friends for dinner. We chatted, laughed, and snacked on steak and potato salad until the wee hours of the morning. And when I say, “wee hours”—I mean, like three a.m. (Whoops.)
Around that time, my ankle started killing me. It was swelling and stiffening up, and I knew I had to get home, but I couldn’t drive myself because of my injury. So, one of my friends offered to take me back to my flat. As we approached my gate, there was a woman sitting in her car—not moving, not driving, not doing anything. We soon discovered that she was—to put it kindly—highly intoxicated, hammered, sozzled, and completely and utterly befuddled. She was stuck sitting at the gate because she couldn’t find her keys. Luckily, I had mine. So we followed her into the complex (after waking her up by knocking on the car window) and we prayed that she wouldn’t crash into any cars or people or tiny animals on the way. She managed to only hit a small street lamp next to the dirt road—so I’d say our prayers were pretty successful.
Once safely in the parking lot, I approached her driver’s side window, and I asked if I could help her get home, but she said, “No, no it’s fine, it’s way to cold outside, but thanks. I’ll stay here.” I knew there was no way she was making it back to her flat by herself. Her car was still in reverse with the parking break up and she couldn’t figure out how to get the key out of the ignition or turn her car headlights off. After my unsuccessful attempt at getting this lady out of her car, my friend suggested that we get her a blanket from my flat. Brilliant. So he brought out one of the fuzziest blankets I owned. (Not to mention, it was the only blanket I owned). I approached her car again, this time with my fuzzy blanket in hand. I decided to knock softly on the car window this time, so she didn’t think I was trying attack her. Because let’s be honest, when there’s a strange American girl standing outside your car window (dressed in sweaty soccer clothes) at three in the morning in South Africa—you ask questions.
I asked her if she’d like to have my fuzzy and warm blanket. She did. Thank goodness. As I wrapped her in the blanket, I told her that she lived in the flat just behind me, and that I’d be happy to help her get home. She said yes, so we were able to put the car in park, shut off the headlights, and turn off the engine—finally. I walked her to her front door, placed all of her belongings and keys on her dining room table, and made sure she was safe. She thanked us for our help, and managed to get herself ready for bed.
When I walked around the corner to my flat, I became so incredibly overwhelmed. What would have happened to her if I came home straight after soccer practice before she arrived to the gate? What would have happened if I stayed out all night and didn’t come home at all? What would have happened if my ankle wasn’t hurting and I didn’t need to come back at that exact moment to get ice? What would have happened if my friend didn’t recommend giving her my blanket? What would have happened if we left her in the car in the parking lot?
I cried. I cried because I still don’t believe in coincidences. I cried because in that exact moment, God reminded me of how incredible He is. He reminded me that He is in complete control and that He is completely faithful to protect the kids whom He loves most. I realized that the Lord had allowed all of the events of the evening to take place exactly as they did—for the sake of this one girl. The Lord allowed me to experience the pain of a hurt ankle, He allowed me to stay up super late eating delicious food with my friends, and He allowed me to cross paths with this woman just months before—so that I’d know her name… for this purpose.
The Lord orchestrated everything so perfectly, and it was all done to show this woman how much He loved her. And that blew my mind. She might not even believe in God, I mean, who knows? But that didn’t stop Him from making sure that she was safe, loved, and protected at three in the morning—all wrapped up in a warm and incredibly fuzzy teal blanket.
This experience taught me that loving people the way Christ did—can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. It’s not always roses and butterflies, and sometimes, those acts of love will happen without anyone there to appreciate them. But it also taught me that God loves lavishly, that He cares deeply, and that He chooses to use us mightily. And He does it all unconditionally—freely without expectation of repayment and sometimes without even receiving any thanks.
So like Father like daughter… let’s walk in His footsteps.