It was our last day in Europe. Early the next morning we would begin the long journey back to our home in the southern United States. Knowing that the next day would be spent sitting in airplanes, I took my young son to a local park for some pre-travel playtime. My sixteen year old daughter accompanied us. While my son and I played, she sat on a nearby bench. At some point, I looked up to notice a young man approaching my daughter. I watched for a few minutes, but understanding the discomfort of the language barrier, I made my way over.
It was my pleasure to meet Ricardo. He was an eighteen year old Italian boy who spoke in broken, yet somewhat understandable, English. He had noticed us, my daughter really, as we entered the park and had followed us to the playground. For a few moments we spoke, as best we could, of Italy and America and our mutual appreciation for each other’s country. I could sense Ricardo’s disappointment that I had intruded upon his time with my daughter and I could further sense his disappointment as he understood that we were leaving the next day. After a few bilingual pleasantries, we all said our good-byes, our ciaos, and Ricardo kissed my daughter’s cheek and walked away.
It should have bothered me. He kissed my daughter. But somehow, even for me, it seemed romantic. I couldn’t blame him. Had I been an eighteen year old Italian boy, I would have noticed the English speaking, auburn haired beauty that had come into the park. And, had I Ricardo’s courage, I would have braved the potential embarrassment of broken language to meet her. I would have walked away disappointed as well; a romantic story, perhaps, abruptly ended by a dad and six thousand transatlantic miles.
"Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount
to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare." Psalm 40:5
Maybe a chance encounter, cut short, between two young people was no chance encounter at all. Maybe in the hands of the divine novelist it was something more. Maybe the great heavenly writer, working in that wonderfully mysterious place where divine will and human choice meet, wrote something not tragic but special that day. Maybe it was a foreshadowing of a day to come; a glimpse that allowed two young hearts to see a little bit more of themselves than they had known just moments before. Maybe it was simply a sweet side plot; not the main story but a welcomed reminder that the main plot is, in the fullness of time, surely unfolding. Maybe it was something even more, more than any of us could imagine.
God is daily writing the story for you and for me and for Ricardo and for my daughter. Our stories are full of love and adventure and challenge and hope and sometimes chance encounters that may not be chance at all.
My wife and I grew up not an ocean apart but the full breadth of our nation apart. By “chance” we chose colleges in the same town. By “chance” we had roommates who came from the same hometown. By “chance” we met and God is still writing our story today; a story that now includes a lovely daughter who captured the attention of a boy who lives an ocean away.
I am glad that it is God and not I who is writing the novel that is my daughter’s life. My novel would most likely not have included a park bench, an Italian boy and a kiss. In all likelihood, Ricardo and my daughter will never meet again but the real tragedy would have been that they never met at all. We are all formed of our experiences.
I pray that God will grant my daughter love and adventure, challenge and hope and also romance in all abundance. And I pray for “chance” encounters that will inspire her to write to her generation of the wonderful divine novelist, our sovereign God, who is faithfully writing her story, even unto today.
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