Just A Coincidence?

“ANGEL CAUGHT ON VIDEO SAVING MAN’S LIFE” screamed the headline of the YouTube video I watched approximately twelve years ago. I know you’ve seen the same one or something similar. A little girl crossing the street, a truck barreling down, oblivious to the life that it’s about to end, when suddenly, a bright flash of someone, or something, miraculously carrying the little girl to safety.

I remember lying in bed that night, thinking about that video. Sure, it was certainly a fake, a product of our digital day and age, nothing more. Still, I couldn’t help but think of how cool it would be to be an angel in the afterlife, to have those powers, and to help someone who needed it.

Suddenly, as if the answer had been there all along, I realized how short-sighted I was in my thoughts. I didn’t need to die and cross over, to become an angel, to help someone in this life. It was in that moment of realization that I closed my eyes, took some deep, controlled breaths, and asked God to make me an instrument of his love, in some way.

A couple of days later, my wife and our two sons, toddlers at the time, were leaving breakfast from one of our favorite local restaurants. We had been to that restaurant at least twice a week, for the past few years. As we walked out, my wife abruptly stopped, pointed to a flyer taped to the window, and said, “you should do that, you’d be good at that.” I couldn’t imagine what she was talking about, so I walked up to the flyer. “Become a Hospice volunteer – light up a life” it read.

To some, that would simply have been a coincidence. To me, that was God answering my prayer. I signed up that day to become a Hospice volunteer and can say, with all sincerity, it was the one of the best things I have ever done in this life.

Fast forward to a few years ago. A friend had volunteered to read and edit a very early draft of The Gift of Samuel. We got together to share a meal and go over his thoughts and suggested revisions.

“Dude, I really liked it!” he began. “Clearly your intended audience is young adult.”

“It is?” I asked, dumbfounded.

“Absolutely!” he answered, like he couldn’t believe I even asked the question. “First of all, your protagonist is sixteen. Then, your use of basic wording in the novel and the way you kept sentence and story structure simple. Finally, your use of short chapters, breaking the book down to small, digestible portions. I could tell from the onset that you consciously constructed this book to appeal to young adults.”

All I could do was stare at him. I didn’t have the heart to tell him the truth. He waited for my answer, only to hear silence.

“Am I wrong?” he asked softly.

“It’s not that you’re wrong,” I tried to explain, “it’s just that…I didn’t have any of those specific parameters in my head when I wrote this book. I didn’t consciously choose a sixteen-year-old protagonist. I didn’t consciously choose specific words or sentence structures to appeal to young readers. I didn’t consciously keep the chapters short. That’s just the way the book came out, based on the dreams I has having, and based on my writing style.”

“I can’t believe it.” He responded. “What about the theme of the book – the message of hope and never giving up. That was a conscious decision, right?”

“Honestly, my friend, I just wrote whatever was coming through in my dreams. That’s it.”

“Paul, when I read this book, I had no doubt you made a conscious decision to tailor this story specifically for today’s young adults. I hear so much about teenagers today struggling with depression and suicide, at the highest rates in our countries history, and experts can’t figure out why. Everything about this book suggests you specifically intended it for those young adults in need…and you’re telling me it wasn’t styled like this on purpose…man…what a coincidence!”

So, I ask you: this book, about a sixteen-year-old boy trying to find hope, in a world fraught with despair, based on recurring dreams, from a man who didn’t know the first thing about writing a book, who earnestly asked God to be an instrument of his love…is it just a coincidence?