Cosmic Recoil

By Donna Lee Schillinger

In her heart, a woman plans her course, but the Lord determines her steps.
Proverbs 16:9

Many are the plans in a woman’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21

One summer during grad school, I spent six weeks in archeology field school. We were surveying a ranch in central Texas that had been little changed since Native Americans inhabited it. As we walked, we look from side to side for artifacts. The ground was a mixture of gray rock with pale green shrubs and dry grasses. And it was hot! I paused for a moment to appreciate a slight breeze, and as I stood in silence, I heard the sound of dead cactus leaves rustling together in the breeze. I looked to the ground and there, coiled in slumber, precisely one step in front of me was a large, gray diamond-back rattler. I was one fluid motion backwards as I yelled, “Snake!”

I had no reason to pause and no reason to look down before my next step. God determined a very important step for me that day and saved me from being bitten by a snake – a good hour away from any hospital. I’m no city slicker; I’ve lived a lot of years in the woods and have a lot more stories of near misses with snakes – though that is definitely the biggest snake I never stepped on.

God determines our every step in both the literal and figurative sense. True, we’re doing the actual walking, but we are never out of God’s control. God is in control and if we take a step in any direction, it is because God allows it. For a power capable of tracking in real time the number of hairs on our head, watching each of our steps is a piece of cake. It’s reassuring to remember this when life seems crazy.

If foolish choices and sin have distanced us from God – if we’re not conversing with Him daily to learn His direction for us – God is still allowing each step we take, but we might not be heading in the right direction. Regardless of how far we may stray from His path, I believe that God gives each of us a chance to come back to Him before we check out of this life. I have no proof of that, and the Bible does say that God has created the wicked for a day of destruction, so there are clearly some destined for separation from God. Even so, I believe that a just God calls each of us one last time – though He may already know who will respond and who will not.

If it’s true that we get a last chance to come back to God before check-out, why would we need to worry about how we live between now and then? Well, there is a very practical reason. The further our selfish plans take us from God’s plan for our lives, the harder the rebound to get back to God.

Maybe life is like a big rubber band and we are inside it. We have room to move around without stretching the band – this is God’s will for us. However, we can also stretch the rubber band and go far away from God. But when we’ve stretched the rubber band to its limit and God calls us back, the rubber band snaps back fast and hard. In the recoil of God’s working we are hurled to the realization that following our own path has resulted in a life gone terribly wrong.

I stopped one day at a restaurant up in the Ozark Mountains. As I headed to my table, I spotted a flyer on the wall announcing a local fund raising effort for a family who had lost a child. The hostess asked me if I had heard about that family, then proceeded to tell me the story.

One afternoon, a father and his 18-month old daughter were napping. The child woke up while Dad stayed sound asleep. Somehow the child managed to unlatch the front door. She toddled out into the yard and up to the edge of the highway, arriving there at the precise moment a drunk criminal was speeding by in a pick-up truck, probably paying more attention to his girlfriend than the road. The report was that he actually swerved over to the shoulder of the road to hit the child. After impact, he slowed down momentarily, maybe to look in the rearview mirror, and then drove on.

The father woke looking for his child only to find her barely alive on the side of the road; she died in transit to the hospital.

About a week later, the driver turned himself in to the police. He was wanted in Florida for several crimes. No one had seen him hit the child except his accomplice girlfriend. He could have gotten away with that crime as well. Apparently, the collision with that precious baby girl was the furthest extent to which his cosmic rubber band would stretch. The rest is recoil. I have no idea if he repented and restored his relationship with God or not. But inarguably, God got his attention, and he could not withstand the weight of his own conscience.

What about the child? Was God determining her every step? It is so hard to think that God could use a child like that. Yet for her brief life, she accomplished something very significant. She alone on this earth brought a criminal to justice. She loved and was loved and she made an indelible impact on many lives – not bad for 18 months. And now, she is with our heavenly Father. The flyer in the restaurant said, “God called and little Bethany answered.”

Hold this thought: I fit in to God’s plan.

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