The older I get, the more I realize that God not only has plans for each one of us, but that those plans can be rather intricately organized. In ways we can't even begin to imagine, our lives and their various trajectories are interwoven, creating pathways that bend and loop and cross one another's in ways that may seem coincidental but are most often what the scriptures call "tender mercies." Where an agnostic might refer to these things as "meaningful coincidence," I frequently experience them as answers to prayer or reminders that the Lord is watching over us, caring for us on a very personal level.
While visiting my son and daughter-in-law's ward last Sunday, I was fortunate to attend a Relief Society lesson that impressed me once again with the perfect synchronicity of God's dealings with His children. The teacher was relating a true story about her mother-in-law. She began on a humorous note, saying that this very devout woman's family always thought of her as a "scripture fanatic." "She was crazy," our instructor insisted, smiling fondly. "My husband's mother was on her knees days and night, praying for and about nearly everything you can imagine." Apparently the unusually faithful lady filled many sets of scriptures with notes and dates, carefully recording most answers to prayer that she received, as well as when she received them. "Seriously," our instructor insisted, "my mother-in-law was a bit extreme."
It wasn't until the single-minded woman passed away that they realized how very close to the spirit she had been. As they read the notes and dates set down in her Bible and Book of Mormon, they came to realize how many answers to prayer she had received, and how much personal revelation the Lord had granted her. In ways large and small, that amazing woman had prayed her husband and children through ups and downs they hadn't even realized she was aware of at the time. Every set of scriptures inscribed by the beloved (but never entirely understood or appreciated) matriarch of this family was a lasting witness to each of its members that God lived and loved them. Relating these words brought our teacher to tears, and she went on to share something even more beautiful with us. In turn, I want to share it with you.
One evening, our instructor's father-in-law dropped by her home during family scripture study. Naturally, they invited him in to read along. He didn't have his own scriptures at hand, so they offered him one of his recently departed wife's self-annotated volumes to use. The lovely young woman teaching our class became quite emotional as she described what happened next to her husband's father, a man who had been missing his wife tremendously. Feeling abandoned, he had wandered over to visit that night seeking comfort. The man had imagined, close as he and his wife always were, that death would not entirely separate them. His conviction had been that they would have spiritual communication of some sort from beyond the grave until they were together again, but he had been disappointed. Though his head told him otherwise, his heart felt as if she had forgotten him, and he even began to question whether she had loved him as much as he loved and always would love her.
Needless to say, his spirit was depressed, and he had been praying for relief when he received the impression to visit them that night. As he opened his wife's book to the chapter and verse the family was studying, he found a little scrap of paper nestled there and read it with great interest, over and over again. His entire demeanor changed, and our teacher remembers being curious. After their study was completed, he enlightened his family. Apparently, this grieving husband had received the most tender of tender mercies, a timeless message from his wife, written years before and yet somehow sent to him in the present, from beyond the veil of death. "I always knew that you were mine," it said. 7 words on a piece of paper, but they meant the world to him. And he knew that they were meant FOR him...in that moment, in that time. Tears streaming down his face, he shared them with his family. Tears streaming down her face, his daughter-in-law shared them with us.
My heart was touched, not just by the story, and not just by the tender mercy itself, but by this evidence of divine complexity in the planning and execution of our lives. We cannot even begin to imagine the blessings the Lord has in store for us, nor can we imagine the ways and means by which these things will be brought to pass. Who knows how many years ago she left that paper in her scriptures? And what are the chances that he just happened to come over right during scripture study, that they just happened to hand him that particular volume out of the many his wife owned, and that they managed to be reading on the very pages where the note had been secreted for who knows how long?
The message to me is that the Lord has our backs, even when certain periods in our lives don't feel like it. His concept and usage of time is infinitely different from ours, and His planning is beyond strategic. I am grateful that years and experience continue to teach us that something good will always be waiting in the wings...or between the pages...of our lives. And I will be watching with increased awareness for His hand in my own life.