Last summer, with gyms closed due to the pandemic, I made an extra effort to ride my bike to work, as often as possible. It’s an efficient way to combine the commute with exercise for the day. It is also more enjoyable and psychologically uplifting to be on a bike, outdoors, in nature, feeling the wind in my hair and the sun on my back rather than driving in a car or stuck in traffic. It clears my head, both coming and going.
But when I’m on my bike, I need to switch back and forth from my purse to a backpack; one Friday morning I rode directly to clinic and after checking the front pocket, I realized I forgot my wallet at home. Rummaging around, I had just one dollar on me, leftover in the side pocket of this backpack. I had a full morning of in-person visits scheduled, and I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. So I walked down to the vending machine with just that single dollar, thinking, I hope this is enough for at least one selection.
Perusing the rows of snack choices, I was trying to find something nutritious but also with enough staying power to get me through until lunch. It came down to an internal debate between a package of peanuts for the protein, versus a blueberry breakfast bar for the carbs and energy. Both items were exactly $1.00. For some reason, it actually took me a bit of time to make this rather simple decision. I even factored in which snack would go best with the complimentary beverages in the staff lounge–still available if you brought your own “virus free” mug–at which point, I concluded that the blueberry breakfast bar would best accompany the dark roast coffee. I fed my dollar into the slot, pressed the button, and watched the spiral coil push the bar out and into a free fall, hoping it wouldn’t get stuck–knowing I didn’t have another dollar to purchase the item behind it. Hearing to my satisfaction the “plop” into the bin below, I opened the door to see my blueberry breakfast bar. But imagine my surprise when I also see an extra item waiting there for me, perhaps one that someone left behind, and it’s…
A package of peanuts.
I just had to laugh. And look heavenward, and thank God for that small miracle—because now I had both a breakfast bar and peanuts to sustain me for an entire morning. Definitely enough to get through until I could go back to my office in the Mayo building where I have “emergency food” stashed in my fridge.
For the rest of the day, I thought, well that just had to be a God thing. What are the chances? Sometimes, in life, I think there really are no coincidences. Those moments that strike us as synchronicity might just be God showing up, orchestrating the entire situation. I noticed so many examples of that as I went through breast cancer treatment.
What were the chances that the radiologist who performed my biopsy was also a cancer survivor, and recommended I seek care at the University? Anne Blaes, who is her oncologist, is now also mine. And becoming a patient at the U was one of the best decisions I ever made. Then, what were the chances that Charlie, a mentor of mine, would be diagnosed with a rare type of aggressive skin cancer mere weeks after me, and need an operation from the very same surgeon? We joke that we both have Todd Tuttle to thank for being six feet above ground instead of beneath it. And in April of 2016, I received a teaching award from the medical school that came with a monetary reward. That was an unexpected surprise; usually it’s just a certificate or a plaque or something to list on your CV. Even more jaw dropping was the fact that the dollar amount was exactly the same amount as my out of pocket deductible for my medical expenses that would come later that month. What a perfect example of God’s provision.
But when God showed up in the vending machine that morning, it also reminded me that He is aware of the smallest details in our lives, even the ho-hum and the mundane, and cares enough about us to intervene. Yes, having surgery to remove cancer is important, but so are the everyday things, such as having enough food to get through a busy morning clinic.
There are many books that have been written describing examples of this phenomenon; such as the God Winks series by Squire Rushnell. His theory being what we consider a coincidence is really God winking at us. And I like that analogy, because it suggests that God has a sense of humor. Recognizing the divine in the everyday was also a recurring theme of Henri Nouwen’s, a prolific author who wrote 39 books including Life of the Beloved. His writing has been a source of encouragement for many people.
So I share this story as another example of a “God Wink.” I also hope that it will encourage others to be open to these many occurrences, become more aware of them, and appreciate the amazing fact that a big God still reveals Himself to us, even in the small things.
More than mere peanuts, as the saying goes.