Friday, July 13, 2012

Six Degrees of Sovereignty

The title of this post refers to the so called "Six Degrees of Separation," whereby one can connect himself or herself to anyone by way of relationships with six other people.  My post refers to the sovereignty of God, however, and not separation, or even Kevin Bacon.  Actually I got to thinking about all of the things God must have planned and enacted in order for something to come about.  God does things throughout history that have the exact ramifications he desires, even if it is just one small link in a chain that extends for centuries.  In other words, God had this exact moment in mind when he did X, Y,  and Z centuries ago.  He knew exactly what would happen, and exactly what a particular decision or event would lead to.  I've thought about this in a couple of different ways today, one of which is personal and another was shared by some friend's at tonight's Bible study meeting.

Exhibit 1: I got to thinking about this this morning at Norm Glewwe's funeral.  Earlier this week I had been talking to my mom, who was particularly sad about Norm's passing.  Norm and his wife Barb were some of my parent's first friends at Riverview when they started coming to the church almost 40 years ago.  In fact, my mom said, they may not have even stayed at Riverview had it not been for their friendship with Norm and Barb.  This got me to thinking about how many things were "riding on" the relationship that my parents had with the Glewwes when they first attended Riverview.  Basically my whole life was influenced and formed by Norm Glewwe's faithfulness to befriend my parents and make them feel welcome at Riverview.  Had he and Barb not befriended my parents almost 40 years ago they may have gone to another church, befriended other people, and my life's story would have unfolded in a completely different manner.  This wasn't dependent upon Norm, though, but on God's sovereign choice.

It's easy to overlook these small details as coincidences or things that "just happen" (I mean, people hit it off and become friends, and as a result go to church together - what's the big deal about that?).  That is, we can often think that small things like someone befriending someone else and their subsequent attendance at a particular church just happens.  Not true.  God had it planned that way.  Speaking for my own life story, God intended that Norm and Barb befriend my parents, that they join Riverview, have kids, and that their third child grow up to become a minister in that very church.  How many things did God have to nail down in order for that to happen?  Certainly more than six.  It must be an astronomical number of things that God orchestrated to bring me to where I am today.  And God used Norm Glewwe in that process.  Praise God for that.

I mean, if you look at the numbers, it gets pretty crazy pretty quickly.  God had to give Norm the exact life experience he had in order to bring him to a place where he was at Riverview when my parents came, down to the mundane details of making sure Norm's alarm clock went off at the right time that morning, and that he drove a particular speed to get to church on time.  God had to orchestrate my parents' lives in such a way as they came together, got married, and eventually visited Riverview, where they then met Norm and Barb.  To think that God had a hand in the minute details of every little thing in the lives of those people, and in the lives of the people they interacted with, and in the lives of the people they interacted with, and so on, and so on, becomes a process that I can't wrap my mind around.

Exhibit 2: A couple in our Bible study have been trying to buy a house for some time now.  They recently found one they liked in Northfield that was a bit out in the country.  Northfield is a good distance from the church and the rest of their Bible study friends.  When I first heard about their intentions I was a bit worried: would they continue to come to Riverview?  To Bible study?  I certainly didn't want to sever relations with them.  They resolved to continue to attend Riverview and Bible study in spite of the distance they would have to travel.

Time went on and it turned out that the house deal in Northfield fell through, so this couple had to search elsewhere.  They ended up buying a house in South St. Paul, very close to where they currently live.  This also means that they're basically within five minutes of the church and their Bible study friends.  Tonight at our small group meeting they shared that they wanted to praise God for his provision of a house for them, and that they have realized that their not getting their first choice of the house in Northfield was God's sovereign direction and blessing on their lives.  They shared that, even though they resolved to continue attending Riverview and Bible study with people from the church, that they probably wouldn't have done so, just because of the challenge of traveling all that way.  They saw this as God telling them they needed to be at Riverview and to continue with their small group.  Also, by living in South St. Paul they'll be close to all their friends and family.

Two things here: first of all, how many things did God have to do to make that house in Northfield fall through to force the couple to look for another house?  Imagine what he had to do, literally throughout history, in order to make this house not work out for this couple, thereby keeping them close to the people who care about them and who are in the process of growing with them.  God must've been involved in the lives of the real estate agents, loan officers, other buyers, etc.  All of this God did to bring this couple to where they are today.  It's mind-boggling.

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand."  Proverbs 19.21.  There are so many reasons to praise God for his sovereignty, and I unfortunately miss many of them simply because I'm not looking.

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