Sometimes, when I talk about why I married my husband, I explain, “I did it because God put a big, blinking neon sign over his head saying, ‘Pick this one.’”
Of course, there wasn’t literally a sign hanging over his head. For various reasons, I didn’t want to date John. I was still disillusioned with the breakup of my first marriage, and John was my best friend. If I dated him and it didn’t work out, I would lose both my boyfriend and my best friend at the same time.
But it seemed like every time we went out to dinner, or a movie, or whatever, complete strangers would come up to us and tell us what a cute couple we were. We were having so much fun and getting along so well, everyone just assumed we were either married or dating.
Not to mention the time we went to John’s parent’s house for Thanksgiving weekend. When we arrived, they said, “We know you say you’re not dating, and we have prepared separate rooms for you to sleep in, but we want you to know that if you want to sleep in the same room, that’s okay with us.” And then they repeated the offer a couple of times, in case we had somehow missed the hint.
So, I figured, if God was going to go to all that trouble to tell me I ought to be with John, the smart move would be to give in. Our 9th anniversary was last month, and I couldn’t be happier.
Then there was the time, several years ago, when I was walking through the mall on my way to buy some lipstick. As I walked past the stationery store, for no apparent reason I thought, “I need to go in there and buy a thank-you card.”
I had no need at the time for a thank-you card, so I walked on by, bought the lipstick, and headed back toward the mall exit. On my way back past the stationery store, I thought again, but with more urgency, “I really need to go in there and buy a thank-you card.”
I thought, “What the heck, I don’t need a card, but they’re cheap. I’ll just go in and see what happens.” I picked out a card and proceeded to the counter, where a young man rang up my purchase.
“How are you?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” I answered, absentmindedly continuing the courtesy, “How are you?”
He replied, “Well, I’m taking some antibiotics, and they’re making me feel sicker than I did before I went to the doctor.”
I told him I know what he means, because antibiotics always make me feel sick, too.
He paused, then said, “I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but I moved away from home recently, and the first anniversary of my father’s death is coming up. It’s also my birthday tomorrow, and I haven’t gotten any presents. When I told my Mom I was feeling bad about all this, she said, ‘Welcome to adulthood.’”
I thought that was a terrible message to give this young man. He was suffering, feeling alone, and forgotten. This is not what my vision of what adulthood is like. And I didn’t want it to be his experience, either.
I left the store, went next door to the candy shop, and bought a wrapped box of candy. Then I marched back into the stationery store, handed the young man the box, and said, “Happy birthday.” The look on his face was priceless. I was able to help out a man who needed it, and it wouldn’t have been possible if God hadn’t told me to walk into that store to buy a card I didn’t need.
Just the other day, I was talking with my rabbi about what to put on my father’s gravestone, for the unveiling in April. He gave me some great advice, but more than that, he helped me to focus on what is most important: this is part of the grieving process that I’m still experiencing.
On Facebook I posted, “So there I was, babbling at Michael Lezak, and out of his mouth pops something completely unexpected, which also happened to be exactly what I needed to hear right then. How does he do that so often? Does he have some special arrangement so that God stands behind congregants and holds up cue cards for him or something?” Shortly, a half a dozen other congregants had commented their agreement.
I believe in free will, and I don’t think God can make us do things we don’t want to do. But I do think God gives us hints: “Go tell that couple how cute they look,” or “Go into that store and buy a card,” or “Say this to the congregant.”
We can choose to follow these suggestions, or not.
In addition, we can recognize them as hints from God, or we can believe they are ideas we came up with all on our own.
What I get out of all of this is a reminder that while some people don’t believe in God, some of us see signs of God everywhere we go.
The question is, how open are you to recognizing the signs of God surrounding you?