Close Calls

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Life is full of close calls.

I’m reminded of that when my family wades into one of those “Remember when…?” conversations that inevitably dredges up childhood near-misses.

There was the day, for example, when I got too close to the neighbor’s burning brush pile while wearing my Davey Crockett-era frontier suit.  Unbeknownst to me, the fringes caught on fire.  An attentive grandmother from another house (there seemed to be a generous supply of such grandmothers in the 1950s) rushed out and extinguished the flames by rolling me on the ground.

On two occasions before my second birthday I walked into trouble after somehow escaping from the security gate on our front porch.  Since I have rarely demonstrated such mechanical ability since, we assume I must have had some help from my older brother. 

The first time I escaped, I sat down in the middle of Winthrop Avenue holding my blanket.  The next time I crossed the same street and began playing on the Monon Railroad tracks.  The engineer of a slowly approaching freight train fortunately saw me, braked to a stop, and led me by the hand back home.

My brother Scott thought it would be exciting if one of us dropped a big stick from the top of the clothes chute in our house, while the other stood in the basement and watched it come down.  “You go to the basement first,” said Scott.  He was right.  It was very exciting.  The stick narrowly missed one of my eyes.

I long ago concluded that my mother, who prided herself on being a fully attentive, hands-on mom, had her hands full with her middle son’s knack for getting into trouble.  It’s enough to make you wonder if I should be trusted today with, oh, a driver’s license or access to a church’s mission budget.

Think about the myriad close calls that have been part of your life – including the ones that you know absolutely nothing about. 

Do they mean something?  Are they just lucky breaks or providential interventions?  How can we possibly know?

God knows.  The biblical doctrine of providence comes from the Latin words pro (“before”) and video (“to see”).  God sees everything in advance. 

In fact, God simultaneously sees all of reality – past, present and future – and the totality of life’s complex interconnections. 

What Scripture tells us is that there are no trivial happenings.  Author and theologian Francis Schaeffer was fond of saying there are no little places and no little people.  God is fully attentive at every moment.  And this moment – this one, right now – matters for eternity.

Sports stars routinely assure reporters, “Right now we control our own destiny.”  We do nothing of the kind.  In truth we control almost nothing. 

One of the great questions of our time is where ultimate security can be found.  Is it available through a great job, an adorable spouse, wise investments, a foolproof burglar alarm, or strategies to counteract terrorism?

Psalm 34:7 reminds us: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” 

You are alive right now because God has preserved you through every close call.  The best advice we could possibly heed with regard to finding security is, “Take hold of God with all of your heart, and never let go – confident that he will never let go of you.”

Oh, and one more thing:  Don’t look up clothes chutes. 

You never know what might be coming down.