Thursday, December 21, 2006

Do you see what I see?

Third Thursday of Advent
Song of Songs 2:8-14 OR Zephaniah 3:14-18A
Psalm 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21
Luke 1:39-45

My mom loves coincidences. She's always pointing out what a small world it is, because of someone from church whose cousin's nephew's next-door-neighbor's sister also teaches high school religion, or something like that. My dad likes to mess with her, pointing out that "Today, I saw a car with license plate number 482GKZ" --- she asks what's the big deal about that, and my logicial computer-minded science-guy father says that that's just as likely an occurance as some of the things she points out, like a license plate that has her birthday and initials.

Doing a simple google search on coincidence gives a variety of articles that discuss the supernatural status, or not, of such unlikely co-occurances. In fact, mathematician John Allen Paulos is quoted as observing that: "In reality, the most astonishingly incredible coincidence imaginable would be the complete absence of all coincidences." Psychologist David Meyers, author of that same article, concludes: That a particular specified event or coincidence will occur is very unlikely. That some astonishing unspecified events will occur is certain. That is why remarkable coincidences are noted in hindsight, not predicted with foresight. You can even discover your birthday hidden in the random string of numbers that is pi.

It's all a matter of perspective. For me to discover a license plate of 117SAY would be something to point out, but to anyone else, it'd be a simple "So what?" We assign meaning to things as they speak to us, and our background oftens determines how we assign that meaning. It's the same as when we talk about getting a sign. What might seem to me a random collection of events not even worth noticing might seem to someone else to be the lightning bolt from heaven that makes it all clear.

And so it's important to be aware of the context out of which we operate. How is it that we interpret these events that occur in our lives? What is the framework through which we hear things that people say? Lonni Collins Pratt, in Benedict's Way, says the following about lectio divina:
Lectio teaches us to listen. Benedictine spirituality is about listening to God and listening to life. Lectio eventually moves us beyond reading Scripture to reading our lives, to reading our world. The important, key idea here is listen. Listen.

A little while after beginning Lectio, you discover that movies speak God, music speaks God, your friends become prophetic oracles. God begins to speak so persistently in all of life that you awake every day amazed that you didn't hear all this God-noise before. Lectio opens the ears of your heart.
I know various people who, because of the filter of faith through which they view their lives, call these events "godincidences" rather that "coincidences" — these are "Incidences with God."

For me, this has been one of the biggest ways that God has "spoken" to me. All the little things that fit together too perfectly .... someone saying the right thing at the right time ..... throwing the CD player on shuffle and the song with "the answer" coming on .... all the stuff that could just as easily be chalked up to "fate" and ignored. But, because of the lens through which I view my life, I see it as God's "movement and action in my life." But in order to view things in that way, I also have to believe that God is active in my life. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of random unrelated stuff.

And, while coincidences are most noticed in hindsight, sometimes we find ourselves looking and hoping for them based on what we want, or have prayed for, or are expecting (and/or dreading).

After all, Elizabeth in today's gospel could have just seen it as chance timing that "the infant in [her] womb leaped for joy" just as Mary greeted her; instead, she took it as a sign that "the Mother of [her] Lord" was visiting. Likewise, I could dismiss any of the ways in which I believe I've received a "sign" .... or I could take it on faith that perhaps there's a deeper meaning to it all. It's all in the perspective taken towards life.

Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful. Thanks, Steph.

12/22/2006 7:15 PM  
Anonymous jeana said...

Wow. Well said. I guess the challenge for me is to HEAR all the "God-noise" rather than to just tune it out as part of the background.

12/22/2006 11:06 PM  

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