“and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz” (Ruth 2:3).
Last night I was browsing for a podcast to listen to before bed. One can spend all night searching for that interesting series or topic which won’t end up being a disappointment. Eventually, I returned to a familiar podcast ‘This American Life’ and I looked up ‘best episode’ recommendations. ‘No Coincidence, No Story!’ was an episode that was top of the list so I began listening.
The episode was all about coincidences and started with a short account of some very unusual happenings which two girls experienced – involving toy soldiers with parachutes. It was quite peculiar and a remarkable coincidence, if that is the right word for what occurred. But I only listened to the opening ten minutes as I wasn’t completely hooked though, to be fair, it might have been because I was interrupted.
I did have two reflections. First, I was intrigued that such coincidences were of great interest to people. Second, I was aware that I have a string of coincidences in my life that I have noted through the past 20 years or so. And so, it had me musing upon this subject.
By then it was time to read in bed. What to read? I had a pile of books on my bedside table but nothing was really pulling me. Feeling a little disconsolate, I crossed over to a bookcase and saw a small paperback book on Winston Churchill on the top shelf. I plucked it down and soon after was in bed reading about young Winston’s escapades in Cuba, Spain, South Africa. What an Adventurer he was. I had picked up this book from the Churchill War Rooms Museum which I visited in London in August 2019. I enjoyed this short overview of Churchill’s youth and was surprised to learn he’d visited Havana, Cuba. I looked back at the front of the book to see who was the author and was surprised to read the name ‘Dr Christopher Catherwood’.
I was surprised because I suddenly realised that I had another book by him right beside me on the bedside table. It was a biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones which I had bought from a Christian bookshop in Sydney. What a coincidence. I had not realised the connection. It would have been different had I bought them at the same bookshop, or even city. But this was not the case.
There was another aspect to it for me though. I had a similar experience with the Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ biography back in December. I read an article by the late JI Packer in which I quoted a man named Fred Catherwood. I went on to post the quote on my blog on 21st December 2022. (Reading it now I even use the phrase ‘just happened’, I see.) Two days later I was quite surprised to see the name Catherwood as I glanced at the Lloyd-Jones biography sitting near my bed and from there I came to realise the connection, namely, that Christopher was Fred’s son. Fred married Elizabeth Lloyd-Jones, daughter of Martyn.
Now, none of this is really that surprising if you are familiar with and know the people. But for me it was ‘surprising’ because of the timing and the way that I came to learn about it. And there was this real sense of ‘what a coincidence’!
The irony being that this experience all occurred shortly after I had this reflection about ‘coincidences’ flowing from the podcast.
I don’t regard this incident as a very notable coincidence. There is more of a ‘connection’ aspect to it. But it has stirred me to try a little series of blog posts along the coincidence line. Just to see where it goes. Of course, the big question is with respect to ‘meaning’. Is there any significance in it all? Surely, it’s just coincidence?! I have thought the same often enough, but there are times where you are left asking: ‘what are the chances?’
And so begins: ‘It just happened…’