Why does it all happen?
Looking back over the past two days, I've had a whirlwind of thought and reflection after touring through the National World War Two Museum here in New Orleans. Even as I type these words, sitting in a quaint upstairs visitors' residence we rented for the week, I can't help but wonder if there is a reason why a specific person at a specific time might read these words. It all hit me after I read these words on the wall in the Road to Tokyo Exhibit in the museum. MacArthur spoke these words on board the USS Missouri in response to the official news of the Japanese surrender. Bear with me as I attempt to describe what all this means, but the revelation came to me after much discussion throughout the museum with my brilliant 15 year old son, who is already a fountain of trivia regarding the World War Two era.
First, let me give a reader some perspective here. Sure, the museum does an amazing job pointing out the incredible feats of wartime heroes; the sacrifice of men and women from a time when America was initially still reeling from the Great Depression when the first ugly events leading up to the second world war began to unfold. But those magnificent depictions of heroic deeds and the triumph of America is not what spurred any of this on. What spurred my thoughts on, and what lit the spark to write down my reflection was the culmination of the events MacArthur described in the quote on the wall. My son and I had talked on the subject of America being at just the right place, at just the right time in history. And yet - right before seeing MacArthur's quote on the wall, the last exhibit showed the cruelty of mankind, and the potential for death and destruction mankind can wield. But why? Why does this all happen?
I've mentioned this before, but I do not believe in coincidences. Throughout my life, I could see that somehow, for some reason, God worked in my life. I've been blessed with some fortunate circumstances, and I cannot possibly just think it is because I am that lucky. I have seen other things work in other people's lives in similar fashion. Now don't get me wrong; I've seen the complete opposite of that as well. And I do not envy those individuals. And this is where I bring in my discussion with my son. How is it, that America, whose military might was the equivalent to that of Romania at the onset of World War Two events, could somehow intervene at such an opportune time as to interfere and cause a butterfly effect that would eventually turn the tide to what could have been cataclysmic for all mankind? Is that, as some strange people would insist, sheer coincidence? I don't think so.
As a fiction writer and storyteller, I think I have a different way of understanding all this. It may be wrong; maybe not; but also as a Christian, I see God having a unique and perfect plan in place, a general direction He wants the story to go. He lets us as free individuals pick and choose which parts we want to play, but He still has certain things everything moves towards. Is it just coincidence that had Patton not made it in time to bolster the American forces in the Battle of the Bulge, that Germany would've regained momentum and may have been able to turn back the tide of the war in the entire European theater? Is it coincidence that had Great Britain not been able to rescue their men on the beaches at Dunkirk, D-Day wouldn't have happened? Is it coincidence that Roosevelt died around the same time as most of our last American lives were taken in combat, only to have President Truman tasked with the horrible nightmare ultimatum to decide to end American combat with the dropping of two huge bombs?
Is it a coincidence that both Hitler, the leader to reignite his 'master race', and Muslims, hated the Jews and wanted to eradicate them - the 'chosen people of God'? Is it a coincidence that Japan also happened to have leaders who also claimed to be a master race? Is it a coincidence that despite our own racial and socio-economic problems here in America, people would unite and fight together to defeat the forces of evil, racism, and fascism? Is it a coincidence that that very same nation fought a war with itself based on racist beliefs, and people who thought there was nothing wrong with those beliefs? Is it a coincidence that the very same nation would be born out of tyranny so many years before, because their own freedoms were restricted? Is it a coincidence that that same nation would infringe on the rights of the men and women native to this land before it was conquered? Why does it all happen? Where is the author of history (His story) going with this?
These thoughts brought me back to things I knew about my family's own past; things I know about my family members, my grandparents, and my parents. Is it a coincidence that my dad's own father would be an alcoholic, and because of tragic events that ended his own life, my grandmother would enlighten me with such information that caused me to not drink? Is it a coincidence that my own grandfather on my mom's side would have a nervous breakdown and battle his own skeletons in his closet after WWII, and still come back and have three children with my grandmother - one of which of course was my mom? Is it a coincidence that my own father would have a head injury and seizure on the basketball court in high school that would be one of the factors that possibly disqualified my dad from having to go to Vietnam? Here I sit, typing the words on the screen, because my dad just happened to go on to college, and marry my mother, and not have to die in some foxhole somewhere on the other side of the world.
Is it a coincidence that my own son would develop a deep interest in military history, namely World War Two history, and dream of joining the Air Force one day? Is it a coincidence that my son is here, even though he has a twin brother who didn't get to join him in this world? Why does this all happen? What does it all mean?
Is it a coincidence that a reader such as yourself opened the link and decided to read these very words?
In my heart, I know the answer. In my heart of hearts, God is still writing his story, and we all have a part to play. But just like characters in a novel, thanks to our intervention in God's story in the first place by inviting sin into the world, we are going to face our fears, face our faults, and face our demons. We will face dark times. Some of us may not make it long in this world. Yet despite the harsh reality of it all, no matter how dark the circumstances get, good things still come. One would have to be a total pessimist to think nothing good ever came out of America. An individual may not see the light in things happening at the moment, but they do not have the perfect vision of hindsight. Their story is still being written. Folks may lose their loved ones in this world, but if you know God's story, that doesn't have to mean their story is finished completely. I know these may not be hopeful words to someone at the moment of sharpest pain of loss, but what if they could discover the rest of their loved one's story. God tells us part of His story and a way we can all find out that part of loved ones who moved on. I encourage anyone to read the New Testament for yourself if you never have. It can move you in ways I never could.
Maybe the way I see it still doesn't answer the question for some. But these were my thoughts today. If you haven't had the chance, or if you ever get the chance, I encourage everyone to visit the National World War Two Museum. It is quite telling, and contrary to some strange uninformed or disenfranchised Americans who like leaving critical reviews for the museum, it is very well done and gives credit to all parties. But if you ever sit down and reflect on your own history, and the history of your nation, and the history of the world, maybe you, too, can ask that question, 'why does it all happen'. And maybe you will come to the same conclusion, and just not believe in coincidences.