I love the story told frequently by Tim Keller, the beloved and well-respected New York City pastor who died recently from pancreatic cancer.
He used to tell his congregation, “Watergate happened for you.”
It’s a story of how God uses everything, every tiny detail, to bring about his will for his people, even, and maybe especially, the things we may consider unfortunate at best and tragic and traumatic at worst.
Redeemer Presbyterian Church exists because of the chain of events of the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s, down to an unlatched door.
As Keller told it, in his last semester at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary he had a British professor who inspired him to embrace Presbyterian theology — he had been raised Lutheran and Catholic.
However, that professor almost didn’t arrive at the seminary because of visa problems.
As the seminary dean prayed about the matter with a seminary student, the student said maybe his father had some clout and could help with the bureaucratic snag.
The student’s father was Gerald Ford, who was President of the United States at that time.
Gerald Ford was president because Richard Nixon had resigned.
Nixon resigned because a bunch of burglars broke into the Watergate Hotel, where the Democratic National Committee had its headquarters, and got caught.
They got caught because one of them just happened to leave a door to an office they had just bugged unlatched, and a night watchman just happened to walk by and notice the unlatched door.
Boom! — Watergate happened.
Another pastor, John Piper, says, “God never does only one thing. In everything he does he is doing thousands of things. Of these, we know perhaps half a dozen.”
I love to trace back the sequences of things that happen.
For example, I’m a Christian today because when I was 19 and went to enlist in the Navy like my brother had, the Navy recruiter was out to lunch but the Air Force recruiter was at his desk.
Four years later, on an Air Force base in northern Maine, Jesus found me.
My husband is a Christian today because he, too, joined the Air Force, and in basic training had pneumonia, which set him back 10 days, which affected where he would eventually be stationed, which was the Air Force base where we would meet.
Also, he had wanted an Air Force job in civil engineering and I had wanted one in weather or communications, but we both ended up in base supply working in the same building.
I became a Christian first and he did much later.
My son-in-law is a Christian because, after a few years in the Army he made a mess of his finances and moved back home to live with his mom and needed a job that was close to the house.
So, he got a job at McDonald’s where my daughter worked.
Not only did she help him straighten out his finances, but his interest in Christ was sparked because of her faith.
Stories like these and all their myriad intricacies — it would take pages to tell all the details — often seem random, but if you believe that no molecule of the universe can go rogue, then you also believe that no minute detail of your life is out of God’s control, even if everything looks and feels out of control.
“We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Or as Tim Keller would say to his congregation: “Are you glad Redeemer Church is here? Then Watergate happened for you.”
Nancy Kennedy can be reached at 352-564-2927 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.