By Chance

by Susan Rigby

July 25, 2018

Person Holding A Map

I believe in the “slow work of God.”

For seven years, my husband and I were missionaries in Mexico. At first, he went to Mexico alone to scope out the land, and then I flew down when he said, “I don’t know if I’ll make it without you.” That was how he proposed, how I found myself on the next plane to Mexico City, and how we were married three days later.

The rest of life has been just a tad boring compared to those first years! There are lots of stories about those years, but just one needs to be told today.

For about two years, we lived across the street from a Guatemalan couple, Julio and Marta. They were great friends whom we loved dearly. But after we moved, they moved, and life got busy. We lost touch and didn’t see or hear from them for over ten years.

Years later, after we had moved to Los Angeles, we went to visit family for Christmas in a city just north of Miami.

The day after Christmas, my mother-in-law said, “Let’s go to this new shopping center, the Omni, to see what craziness is going on.” The story was that people came from all over Latin America to shop there. So we went. It was crowded and parking was horrible. We kept driving up and up and up in the parking structure. We ended up parking on level 8 (that’s not a misprint). We walked to the entrance doors on that level, but someone said,  “No, wait, let’s walk down two floors and then enter the mall.” When we got down two floors, I was the first to head toward the door to push it open, but there was a man coming out—so I hesitated, looked up, and guess who was coming out? Julio and Marta.

Lots of hugging and kissing and laughing and shouting ensued. Spanish and English were flying everywhere, and then tears came. Fortunately, no one called the police, but it was a mess! We were a mess. We were just so incredibly happy to reconnect with these wonderful people.

That was over 40 years ago.

So why this story?

How did this happen? Was it random? Was it fate? Was it a coincidence? Was it chance?  Those are often common responses in today’s world. How many stories do we all have about something like this? It’s worth thinking about. How many possibilities were there for us to have missed our friends that day in my one little story?

Where we are, the place we are—none of it is by chance. Think about all the times in Scripture when God called someone to go to a particular place. Or when the Bible mentions the town or the village or the mountain or the road where something happened, where God spoke.

Recently I have been thinking about what it would look like if I drew out the places where I shop, worship, live, and everything in between, on a map. What if they were not just random places that happened to be in my life, but rather, places and people God is calling me to look at through His eyes? People whom He loves.

My neighborhood, my workplace, my community, my city, these places are not just random stops and locations. God has placed me here with purpose.

If we view our world that way, the uniqueness of each one of the people in these places can no longer be seen as an interruption. The person standing next to you in the grocery line is not just another sinner, but a beloved sinner. That is what being called is. It is not only some who are called but you and I—each of us who follow Jesus—are selected by God to occupy, to be His hands and feet, in a space that can be drawn out on a map, and could be called “my parish.”

It’s summer now. It’s a great time to invite people into your home, your backyard and your life. They might just be part of your “parish” where God has called you.

Susan Rigby is truly a Renaissance woman: she was the first female lead/director in our high school ministry (as a 40-something!), worked on staff at Hollywood Presbyterian Church for years, and now is a trained spiritual director. She and her daughter Maryanne regularly open their home, preparing a full Virginia breakfast spread, for numbers of young adults who come to retreat and seek wisdom at their feet. In Susan's terms, she's the "keeper of the zoo."

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