O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. (Psalm 139:1-3, 6 ESV)
Have you ever experienced one of those coincidences that delight you? Like finding the perfect parking place when you really need it? I had one of those happen to me recently. On Wednesday, July 26th, to be exact. Here’s what happened.
I’ve written before that Kerry Bacon and I are doing a Rapid Bible Read-Thru together. We started in March 2017 and are within a month of finishing. It’s great to be in the same place at the same time, because you can talk about the day’s reading. Except we’ve never been at exactly the same place at the same time. Kerry has always been ahead of me in the readings. I’m always sending her emails, “Where are you?” so I can gauge my behindness and mourn appropriately. Periodically, we shoot each other long, rambling reflections on what’s inspiring us and profound replies like “Yes!!! I thought so, too!” Or long, rambling rebuttals.
On Wednesday, July 26th, Kerry was galloping through mid-Acts with Pauline letters interspersed, while I was trotting through the last fifth of the four gospels in parallel.
First thing that morning, I did my usual 30 minutes of treadmill with 30 minutes of Bible reading on my iPad. I finished reading the story of the ten virgins in Matthew. Then I packed my old NASB hard copy Bible into my prison bag (no electronics allowed) and headed off to the medium security prison in Monroe to be the presiding volunteer at the computer lab for University Beyond Bars. Nothing is required of me except to show up, follow the rules, and hang out, so I bring something to read.
The students logged in and got to work. I started reading Matthew where I had left off on the treadmill, the Parable of the Talents. I wondered about the man with one talent. He had a harsh conception of God, and God amply met his expectations. He was afraid, but perhaps not afraid of the right things.
And then KAPOW!! I read these words: “I was in prison and you came to Me.” “Lord, when . . .?” “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:36, 37, 40 NASB). I couldn’t suppress a smile.
I showed one of the men what I was reading, and smoothed out my wrinkled copy of the Bible reading program, with the date 7/26/17 scrawled next to Matthew 25. He shook his head and grinned: “What are the chances???!!”
What are the chances indeed? It could happen by chance. But chance is greatly improved when there’s a living God, who delights in reminding us of His presence in the most remarkable ways.
I took a couple of messages from this goofy, unlikely grace. One, although I’ve been lagging behind Kerry this whole project of Scripture reading, my competitive juices unsatisfied, my perfectionist instincts likewise, perhaps God is not wasting a lot of brainspace on seeing me as “late.” Perhaps He’s pleased that I’m showing up for the Scriptures at all. Two, God gave a little boost to my improbable placement in a men’s prison. It’s weird in my world, but not weird to God—He calls out prison and prisoners often in the Scriptures and put them in the sweet list in Matthew 25:31ff. God was pleased to share this sweet coincidence with me. Not a burning bush, but I still felt wonder and gratitude.
Jani can be reached by email here.