SCOT BELLAVIA: When Lightning Strikes Twice

There is a coincidence I have heard from Christians remarking that the preacher spoke on the very same Bible passage they were contemplating in their morning devotions. Rarely, in my hearing, is this explored beyond coincidence. It’s merely a neat thing. But because it involves Scripture, to study the same passage twice in one day should lead us to try to learn something from it.

This coincidence may, to the skeptic or stiff-necked Christian, be thought of as calculable, and so leave it at coincidence. Proof of this, they’ll note, is that you and the preacher were already in the same book (the Bible). It’s not as if you were in the Upanishads and the preacher in the Quran.

Not only were you both in the Bible, but how many books within it actually get preached on and are used for personal study? Nobody reads the whole Bible anymore, it seems. So, for Protestants, there is a greater than one in 66 chance you were in the same book of the Bible. Furthermore, your shared culture and congregation, the time of year, and the math of a given study plan quite possibly placed you both in the same chapter or passage within that book of the Bible. Therefore, this is something that “just happened.”

Sheesh! Video killed the radio star and logic killed our sense of wonder.

Another logical explanation is that this is the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, where you begin to see something everywhere because it is already on your mind. Like when you buy a new car and see everyone else driving the same model. Or you’re expecting a baby and suddenly everyone’s pregnant. Nevertheless, a version of it happened to me twice recently.

I have this thing where while I’m finishing Book A, I select Book B. But invariably, I’ll read a few pages of B and then settle into C or D, even E. So, the other day, I was reading A and toward the end I learned the word inchoate. Then I got into Book B and toward the beginning I see the word inchoate. It confirmed to me that this was the next right book to read, though they have nothing else in common.

I listened to two podcasts too. One was called ‘The Life and Work of J.D. Salinger’ so of course they talked about The Catcher in the Rye. The next lined up in my queue was called ‘The Paradox of Authenticity.’ I see now that Holden Caulfield’s phonies are the perfect example of inauthenticity, but I wasn’t expecting another Catcher reference (the first podcast wasn’t all about Catcher). So, it felt serendipitous, and I took it to mean that this was the next right podcast to listen to. Because the thing I have with books, about settling into the next one, I also have with podcasts.

The Christian doesn’t believe in coincidence. Solomon said that God even controls the outcome of throwing dice (Proverbs 16:33). Still, our post-Enlightenment minds rationalize these moments of lightning striking twice. And even when it only tells me I’m reading the book I should be, and that because of my own self-rule, I believe that when lightning strikes twice it’s always for a reason.

– Scot Bellavia

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