Authored by Peter van Gorder (a guest contribution)
Life is a sand clock of rich and poor;
The sand flows not in vain.
It is turned over and filled once more—
What you give returns again.1
I went to my desk on Christmas Eve morning to find that our beloved sand clock glass had somehow broken. I had just thrown it away when I fished it out again, thinking I might be able to make a dramatic photo using it.
Sand clocks have always held a fascination for me, especially this one. It was a gift to my wife last Christmas meant to represent “the gift of spending time together.” It also reminded me of a story and play I had written based around the symbolism of the sand clock.
I thought nothing more about it and went to my job that day as Santa at a corporate Christmas event. As I was going around the offices and taking photos with the employees and their children, I spied an exquisite large sand clock in one office. We entered and took photos there with all the small children standing on the manager’s desk. I remarked to him how superb the sand clock looked and the significance that kind of clock has for me.
“I use it to make sure meetings are kept to under 30 minutes,” he replied.
“Did you get it in India?” I asked, hoping to replace my broken one.
“Yes, I’ll give you the address where I bought it.” I was making my exit when he had a sudden inspiration. He handed me the sand clock with a smile that rivaled Saint Nick’s and told me, “This is a Christmas gift from me to you.” I felt the Lord also had something to do with it as well. I thanked him profusely and promised to send him my Christmas sand clock story.
I came home with my new sand clock in hand, bubbling over to tell my story. It was about midnight before I arrived in our parking lot from a nearly two-hour journey across town. To my surprise, my daughter’s team and another caroling team arrived in the parking lot at precisely the same moment—to the second. It was a good thing, because only one of us had the key to the house. If anyone else had arrived earlier, they would have had to wait outside. Three cars from different locations and times, arriving at the exact same minute! What were the chances of that happening? I started to run the odds in my head and quit at googolplex to one. There is no way anyone could ever pull off such a feat even if you arranged it beforehand—especially in the mayhem of Mumbai traffic.
So what does that have to do with my sand clock? I wasn’t exactly sure, but like a detective, I felt there was some connection. After pondering it further, I came to the conclusion that they were both examples of a power behind the scenes that cared deeply about the details concerning my life. I mulled over the amazing events that had unfolded. Was it all a “coincidence”? The same day I broke our beloved sand clock, I was given a much better one? And what about our simultaneous arrival? It was all too wonderful to have been by chance. If not by chance, then what was it?
I thought of other examples of the miraculous—the Shroud of Turin, finding Noah’s Ark, the Star of Wonder of the Nativity, and the signs in the heavens that accompanied Jesus’ birth. It seems in all these, there is always some margin for you to “take it or leave it.” In all the evidence for and against miracles, it always comes down to personal choice and faith—the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.2 For some, these “coincidences” are just random events that they brush past and continue on their way. I too could have dismissed both of the incidents of that Christmas Eve as mere random “good luck.” But when looking back, I remembered other Christmases. Like the one where a butterfly fluttered into our living room just as we were all gathered around the tree and stayed all day, and many other times when things just seemed to click like the tumblers of a safe that is opened. I take them to mean that God loves me and is concerned about showing me His care in the details of these occurrences.
It reminds me of a huge tapestry that reveals the beautiful picture, while keeping us wondering how it was made. Sometimes, a thread or two stands out from the tapestry which reveals the master weaver’s warp and weft.
Most of the time I don’t see what God is doing behind the scenes, and sometimes what He’s up to is baffling, but it’s a wonderful boost to my faith when miracles happen to me as they did this Christmas Eve. It is at times like these that I get a glimpse of His handiwork in the stars.
1 Excerpt taken from the poem “The Christmas Sand Clock,” by Peter van Gorder
2 Hebrews 11:1 KJV
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2015 by The Family International