While paging through an old notebook some time ago, in the margin of some meeting notes, I found a sketch of a nail. Yes, a nail.
The meeting was April 6, 2009. I don’t remember what the meeting was about, and probably nothing else on that page will ever mean anything to me again. But the nail does.
Because on Palm Sunday 2009 (which happened to be April 5), I listened to a message on forgiveness, and at the end the speaker handed out small nails as a reminder of the forgiveness we’ve all received and the forgiveness we should offer in turn.
For many years I carried one of those nails in my pocket regularly (some days I still do).
The man who delivered that message that day was pastoring a church we visited. My family and I didn’t stay there – it was over twenty miles away and we opted for somewhere closer to home. But we would be back.
It’s funny how we cross paths with certain people along our journey, never suspecting the major role that person will play in our lives someday.
This man had no idea the lasting impact this particular sermon made on my life. He had never met or even seen me before, and considering there were a thousand plus people in attendance that day I doubt he noticed me even then.
I had no idea that three years and one month later I would be in his church again…this time for counseling after a personal crisis would drive me into a spiritual wilderness.
He had no idea that his ministry would be the oasis in that wilderness that was exactly what I needed.
Neither of us had any idea that we would form a friendship, that we and our wives would see one another on a regular basis, or that I would one day consider him one of my most valued personal mentors.
But God knew all of that.
On that day in 2009 as I was doodling in the margin of my notepad, God had already mapped all this out. The meandering path I was about to take would lead right back to the same place I had been the day before, to see the man I had just heard speak.
These are the orchestrations of life that convince me there has to be a God who not only cares but is fully engaged in our lives. Nothing else can explain it.
And it makes me wonder…
…who did Saul of Tarsus see in the crowd that day at the stoning of Stephen who he would one day collaborate with for the furtherance of the gospel?
…what fellow wanderer would Joshua share a campfire with in the Sinai desert that would later become one of his loyal supporters or trusted advisers?
…what skeptic could Peter or John have had a run-in with who would eventually become a champion of the early church?
…which of King Saul’s soldiers may David have spied when he was hiding in caves who would someday serve in his own army?
…who is on the fringes of your life right now that will someday come back around to be a key person in your future (or vice versa)?
Predictability isn’t always God’s modus operandi, that’s for sure. But one thing is certain – He’s always working to bring things together in the most fantastic ways.
And when it happens, and we look back and see it, we can only marvel and say “Wow, God…you nailed it!”