God’s in charge.
He’s sovereign; his will is always accomplished. That includes the big things, and the tiny little things. In my case, tiny little things brought existential results: I wouldn’t exist without them.
My Mom grew up in Brockton, MA, the daughter of hardworking and really interesting Universalists. On graduation from high school, she went to secretarial school and then moved to Baltimore during World War II to work some sort of secretarial job. She got an apartment with a roommate named Nikki.
Dad grew up in the Pacific Northwest, born in Salmon, ID. By age 13 he’d lost both of his parents, and he finished his youth under the freewheeling stewardship of his older siblings, mostly in Spokane, WA, and LA (where he experienced the Long Beach earthquake of 1933). Around 1944 he volunteered for the Army, mostly, I suspect, to get out of the house. Basic training at Camp Roberts in California, then off on a troop ship to the Philippines, as a replacement soldier for the combat-depleted 31st “Dixie” Division, known today as the Alabama National Guard. Spent time on both Leyte and Mindanao, with little combat; made a little extra money by cutting other soldiers’ hair in the jungle.
When the war ended, he returned Stateside and was sent to Fort Meade, MD, during the last days of his enlistment.
One weekend he got a pass and went into Baltimore.
I dunno, I think I’d have gone to Washington. But he went to Baltimore.
He and a buddy or two dropped in to a café to get something to eat. As they were getting seated, Dad noticed another couple of soldiers making a clumsy pass at two girls who were paying their bill at the register. The girls clearly didn’t want to talk, but the guys kept trying.
Dad got up and told them to knock it off. We can all see they don’t want to talk to you; leave them alone, and get out.
They were privates. Dad was a corporal. They got out.
Dad said a few words to one of the girls. Yeah, she was my Mom.
And 8 years later, along came Yours Truly.
So for me, this is really an existential story. I wouldn’t be here if that hadn’t happened. And oh, yeah, neither would my sisters.
What are the odds?
How did a boy from Idaho, 2 miles down from the Continental Divide, end up in the Philippines with a unit from Alabama?
And how did he and the future Mrs. O. end up in Baltimore, where neither of them had ever been before, at the same time for completely unrelated reasons?
And how did they end up at the same hole-in-the-wall café on supper shifts that overlapped by about 10 minutes?
What if he’d come to supper 15 minutes later?
What if a couple of jerks hadn’t hassled the girls on their way out?
Our lives are an endless stream of details, winding in and out of other endless streams, sometimes apart, but occasionally intersecting. And those intersections are usually brief and trivial and quickly forgotten. What was the name of the guy you greeted on the way into the drugstore yesterday afternoon?
But sometimes those intersections change lives, and those times they change all the world for the people involved.
And God oversees and directs the whole symphony.
The God who raises up kings and sets them down again, who empowers the existence and continuance of the whole universe, who sees that the water cycle and the seasonal cycle continue despite our attempts to contort and convolute them, this God engineers the tiny little details as well.
The tiny little trivial ones, and the tiny little existential ones.
I’m glad of that.