It was a truly magical day in Atlanta, when so many exciting things seemed to go right – a fabulous day at work, a marvelous experience with a friend with an atheist upbringing in which I got to share a Book of Mormon and my thoughts about God and Christ, followed by including a marvelous Shabbat dinner with a Jewish family featuring some of the most loving, talented and impressive people I know. This amazing day concluded with a quirky moment in the parking lot at my hotel. I walked away from my rental car — a sizzling red Mustang, of all things, randomly assigned to me by Hertz — without having locked it. I realized my mistake and stopped, about 20 feet away, pointing my wireless key fob at the car. As I pushed the “lock” button, I expected the car lights to flash to acknowledge that it had been locked. Instead of a response from my car, at that very a street light directly above my car turned on with a “pop.” I hadn’t noticed that it was there, off, in spite of the darkness (this was after 10 pm). I took one more step toward the car, clicked the key fob a second time and now got the flash of lights from the car as it locked.
Wow, I thought, could this key fob control a street light? Did it have magical powers that extended beyond my uncomfortably flashy car? Chances are that the surprise activation of the street light was entirely a chance event. The street light was about to flash on at that moment, for whatever reason, and I must have been a few feet too far from my car for it to read the signal. It only seemed like there was a cause and effect relationship.
These kind of coincidences do occur sometimes, purely chance events that can seem to imply mystical powers. That’s why it’s OK to be skeptical about some apparent miracles, and why it’s dangerous to assume that strange coincidences somehow reflect God’s will for you. Like wondering if you should quit your day job to become a pro golfer, and seeing a sign with Tiger Woods on it moments later. Or praying if you should marry a girl you just met when she suddenly calls you out of the blue – was that a sign? Or was it just a phone call? (Perhaps the tenth one that day?)
At the same time, I believe there are miracles that can look like coincidences, and that we should acknowledge the hand of the Lord in the many ways he blesses us and the many things He does for us. I think it’s often helpful to look for confirmation beyond mere coincidence, and to consider the significance of an unusual event from several perspectives. Any thoughts?
Well, the key fob thing was definitely just chance, not mystic power. I pressed it a couple more times just now and no more lights went on.
So, what I’m trying to say is — sorry, got to run. I just noticed this incredible meteor shower that I can see from my hotel window. And fireworks just started, too! Cool!