Well, just who does decide the fate of the universe, the locations of the stars, the courses of the seasons, the history and direction of mankind, the countries men and women inhabit, and the final destination of the lives of each and every one of us? Who decides? Who directs? Who, if anyone, is really in control?
Is the Supreme Creator in control, or is He merely a fiction of primitive man’s mind—an attempt to explain what was to our far distant ancestors virtually inexplainable? Throughout history there have been those who firmly believed that what Christians today consider to be The Creator of All—The Triune God of Scripture who we profess to believe in and love—is merely a fiction sustained by superstitious people who were (and are) afraid of the unknown and controlled by sorcerers, priests, rabbis, and pastors who delighted (and still delight) in controlling their fearful fellow men, reveling in their own power over our “unsophisticated” and “unscientific” minds.
So, I ask: Does God really move in “mysterious ways”, His wonders to perform, or is all of history--from the “Big Bang” that cosmologists love to prattle on about, to today’s news--ALL just a matter of happenstance—of just blind “luck”, as many insist, or is there a “Divine Plan” for everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen? My Christian Faith, shared in varying degrees by hundreds of millions of humans (and attacked and vilified by hundreds of millions more), assures me that God, the Creator, is in control of everything; and if we doubt this it is because we only see “through the glass darkly”.
Recently a fraternity brother sent me the following very touching tale,
supposedly a true story originated by a Pastor Rob Reid. Perhaps this modern “parable” can help answer our question of “who decides” the flow of eternal time. The story is titled, THE TABLECLOTH:
“The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn, N.Y., arrived in early October, excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church building, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.
“They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc., and on Dec. 18th were ahead of schedule and just about finished. On Dec. 19th a terrible tempest—a driving rainstorm-- hit the area and lasted for two days. On the 21st, the pastor went to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster to fall off the front wall…just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high.
“The pastor cleaned up the mess…, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, he headed home. On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity, so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted large tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.
“By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus, but she missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus in 45 minutes. She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he….put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry, to cover the damaged plaster. He could hardly believe how beautiful it looked, as it covered up the entire problem area.
“Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle, her face like a white sheet. “Pastor”, she asked, “where did you get that tablecloth?” The pastor explained its provenance. The woman then asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, “EBG”, were crocheted onto it. They were! These were the initials of that woman, who had made the tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria.
“The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told her how he had just obtained her tablecloth. She explained that before the war she and her husband were prosperous people in Austria, but when the Nazis came (in 1938) she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. But he was arrested, sent to a prison, and she never saw her husband or home again. The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth, but she made him keep it for the church. He insisted on driving her home, which was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for her housecleaning job.
“What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve. The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great. As it ended, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone, many saying that they would return. One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood, continued to sit in one of the pews and stare at the tablecloth. The old man asked him where he had obtained the tablecloth on the front wall, because it was identical to one that his wife had made years before when they lived in Austria. He asked how could there be two tablecloths so much alike?
“He recounted how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety and that he was supposed to follow her, but that he had been arrested and spent years in prison. He never saw his wife or his home again. The pastor smiled through his tears, asking the old man if he would allow him to take him for a ride. They drove to Staten Island, to the same apartment building where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier. He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman’s apartment, knocked on the door, and then witnessed the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine!”
So, does this beautiful story confirm that our God “moves in mysterious ways”, according to His Will? Perhaps. Or perhaps you prefer to heed doubting mankind’s usual explanation that only “blind luck” was in play. Now I don’t believe in “luck”—I believe that my Savior—my Heavenly Father—The Triune God of Scripture--- exists now and has existed eternally, and through His “Divine Providence” is ALWAYS in control of everything. I believe His LOVE is always with those who love Him and are called by His Name and, indeed, even extends to those who foolishly revile and curse Him. I believe His promises are always true, and that long ago He manifested Himself to this world as a tiny baby boy, not to condemn the world a second time, but so that the “world”—we miserable and faithless and selfish and violent and undeserving human beings—through HIM could be saved and witness His sacrificial love for us-------and for two elderly people whom He covered with His love for them, miraculously reuniting their mutual love for each other with a lovely old tablecloth!