The word Providence has not been a regular part of my vocabulary. Last year when we listened to an audiobook about the Pilgrims I realized that the Pilgrims attributed everything to Providence and I thought that was proof that they had an almost mystical perception of God’s activity in their lives but I didn’t see how that applied to me.
Up until now I have absolutely preferred the word “Coincidence.” Inexplicable things happen as a coincidence all the time and if you use the word coincidence you have very little chance of offending someone of a different belief structure. Coincidence is a safer word that (I have believed) still covering the sentiment put forth by that old-fashioned and dreary word, Providence.
These word choices came back to me this morning as I came across the idea of Providence again in my quiet time. I did a google search for word definitions and the first thing search result for Coincidence was the dictionary definition: “a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection. from the Latin coincidere, which means to coincide or agree.”
In contrast, I had to scroll WAY down the page past blurbs about Providence, RI before I found the definition for Providence: “divine guidance or care, God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny. From the Latin providentia, which means to provide or care for.”
While both Coincidence and Providence offer a glimmer of the mysterious and inexplicable, after looking at these two definitions, I realized there is no way I should be supplanting Providence with Coincidence in my daily word choices. They mean totally different things! Additionally, if I apply the differences in the definitions to my every day, my perspective shifts.
For example, if it was simply a coincidental meeting of egg and sperm that just happened to develop into my daughter, then I can consider her personality, growth patterns, and being a chance of nature – she just happened to be the luck of the draw that encounter and I get to deal with the results.
However, if I consider that that fertilization was PROVIDENCE it means that my daughter is not in any way chance, that her personality, growth patters, etc., are all designed specifically for my life, my family, and our stewardship of the child/parent relationship. She is specifically fitted for our circumstances and blessing right this moment. (Reminds me of C.S. Lewis writing these are not “mere humans” we work with in our schooling!)
Removing “coincidence” and replacing it with “providence” changes everything about the heart of how I parent.
Further, if I stop believing that things are happening in my life by coincidence and chance, but instead embrace everything I face as providence – whether it’s a challenge or a victory – then I begin to see that what I do right this minute has significance and purpose. My family, my profession, my community – they are all in my life by providential design. How cool is that to consider when I’m loading the dishes or folding the 20th load of laundry this week during our laundry marathon?!