Exactly one week ago from this very moment, I was suspended somewhere in the stratosphere in a metal tube careening for New York City at terrifying speed. Sadly, “terrifying speed” was the order of the day, as we were in New York for less than twenty-four hours before returning home. Last week we discussed whether the strange, wonderful things happening in our lives are happening because God wants them to, or because this universe is a weird place to live.
After our experience in New York, I can safely say, we are no closer to finding an answer.
The trip was amazing. We ordered authentic New York pizza at midnight, did the Katie Couric show and had the honor of helping to normalize the decision to be childfree (It should air sometime next week– not sure what day yet), we bought art, jewelry, and baked goods at the Chelsea Market, walked the highline, saw Time Square, walked through midtown, shared a plate of squid ink pasta, walked through Central Park, got a new caricature to add to our collection and then walked up and down the East side with our jaws agape. If the trip had ended here, we would still chalk it up as an astounding success. But God/The Universe is too strange to leave it at that. Thirty minutes before we were supposed to leave town, Tom Shadyac would turn my mother into a prophet.
Tom has been on my radar for years; when I was a teenager and would tell my church friends I wanted to make movies for a living and they would wag their finger, he was my go-to example of a Christian in the industry. If you follow the blog, you may be thinking that his name may sound familiar. Tom created a documentary called “I Am” that was instrumental in helping me piece together the idea of “Shalom” that I discuss so often. All of that to say, I respect the man immensely. Which might be why my mother posted this random comment to my wall, days before we would leave for New York:
And so it came to pass, that after all our running Leah and I returned to the lobby of our hotel to wait for our driver to arrive and take us to the airport. Leah decided she wanted to change her clothes before we left, and on her way down the stairwell she heard a voice that sounded strangely familiar. She turned the corner, and sitting before her, the man himself:
Sitting across the lobby, I heard Leah yell my name. For an instant, I was terrified that all our fears about New York had come true at once: She was simultaneously getting lost, getting mugged, and falling down a sewer grate in the middle of of the Empire Hotel lobby. As it turned out, she had said hello to Tom and he invited the both of us to sit down with him and two of his producers.
As much as I tried to force myself to slow down and be present, the conversation is a bit of a blur now. We spoke about what we were doing in New York in the first place, I told him about how much “I Am” meant to me and about the Genesis of HfG. Looking back, I may have gotten a little more “fanboy” than I’d like to admit, but Tom accepted it with grace and poise. Far too soon, we had to leave.
Leah and I said our goodbyes, Tom hugged us both and insisted we get a picture together. We picked up our bags and met our driver. We sat in the backseat in stunned silence while our driver’s thick Russian accent barraged us with facts about the neighborhoods were were driving through.
Real talk? The majority of that silence was spent wondering and desperately hoping that maybe this occurrence meant something. That maybe this could lead to new opportunities. That somehow, God had orchestrated this whole crazy chain of events specifically to engineer that meeting. If any one event had taken any longer; if Leah hadn’t decided to change her clothes, it never would have happened. It’s so strange. So weird. We wanted so badly for this to be the beginning of something.
It wasn’t until hours later, as I was hurtling through time and space in an airplane that another possibility finally dawned on me: Maybe this meeting wasn’t for Leah and I. Tom had mentioned that they were having a rough day. Calls weren’t being returned; they were having difficulty getting the word out on the documentary and Tom’s new book. It’s just as possible that God knew that these three might need some encouragement. Maybe getting fawned over and told that they matter was exactly what they needed to continue doing what they do. Maybe, and it pains me to say this, but maybe it wasn’t about us.
I believe God works in the ways we allow him to, and I’ve always believed that God is a dude/lady who can network like nobody’s business. But the fact of the matter is, there’s no way to know whether this was God or if this was just a weird thing that happened. Years from now we’ll look back, and maybe we’ll be able to tell from that vantage point, but for right now? Right now all I can do is give God the room he needs to work.
|Paul Clouse is the editor of Hunting for God. After growing up in an Assemblies of God church, he attended Johnson Bible College for two years before dropping out. In the time since, he has more or less figured out the whole “adulthood” thing, gotten married, and holds a steady job by day and writes movie scripts by night. He currently resides in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife Leah. HfG on FB|