The Hand of God
I tend to be the sort of person who looks very skeptically on people who claim to see the Hand of God at work in their own lives. It seems only one step from saying, "God wanted me to be a..." (insert profession) to the trucker who believed God wanted him to cut off his right hand, or Andrea Yates who said that God had told her to kill her children.
I tend to think, rather sarcastically, "How do you know that the difficulties you're having at med school means He doesn't want you to be a doctor after all? Maybe it means He wants you to prove your dedication to it." Or that just because an opportunity arises before you that means God wants you to take it? Certainly He provides lots of opportunities for ill-doings as well as good ones.
And yet, in my own life, so many of the coincidental occurrences feel like something more than just coincidence. Like writing for the Religion News Service. A woman who I did not know put up a notice on a yahoogroup we both belong to that she was going to be leaving them and they needed someone to replace her. I jumped at the opportunity, but the chance that she and I would be on the same group (which had been created only a few months before hand) seems incredible.
Similarly writing for Newsweek-The Washington Post. A woman in a yahoogroup I belong to reads the On Faith section, and had complained that no one brought up Eid, and suggested they get a few more Muslim panelists. She recommended me, largely (I think) because I am currently Director of the Islamic Writers Alliance. Again, I jumped at the opportunity, and again was accepted.
My very clear emotional reaction to these coincidences is that God is showering me with blessings and opportunities. Which is not much different than saying, "God's plan for me is to be a writer."
I wonder what it is in the human psyche that doesn't cope well with coincidence. When a novelist puts in too many coincidental occurrences, the reader feels cheated or that things are simply too pat. When other people claim to see purpose in coincidence, it makes at least some of us squirm. And yet, there seems to be something that leads most of us to feel like those coincidences are indeed God blessing us (or cursing us if the coincidence is something like you and a fast moving car happened to occupy the same intersection at the same time), like God is mapping out a plan fo us.
Are we simply so desperate for a shape to our lives, or some greater meaning? I certainly don't feel like I am hungry for a greater meaning to life -- the thought of a hereafter is far more disquieting to me than the thought that we simply die and the worms return our bodies to the cycle of life -- and yet I at times I feel like God is pushing me around on a chessboard. (And lucky me, I get to be a queen rather than a pawn!)
The Islamic answer goes right back to the fitrah, to the essential human condition which includes the recognition of God. Humanity, according to this concept, is tuned to God, tuned to be receptive to Him. Seeing His hand in coincidence is part of our essential nature, and the reason we don't buy it in a novel is the author ain't God. I guess that's part of why I'm Muslim, cause it sure seems to be part of the human condition, based on my observations.