If It Isn’t Luck What Is It?

If It Isn’t Luck What Is It?

It’s a sweltering August afternoon in Miami and the bus isn’t air-conditioned in 1955. I’m twelve years old and I’ve been to Burdines downtown and lunch with my daddy at Polly Davis Cafeteria which he manages. Packages in hand, I board bus #28 and head home to S. W. 6th Street.

While I’ve taken Bus 28 on many occasions, for the first time I notice all the black people at the back. Quiet, respectful, but somewhat cowed down. I live in a white world and I see the “White Water Fountain” and the “Black Water Fountain” in Burdines. Same discrimination on the bathroom doors, but until this moment I haven’t questioned it. It’s the mid 50s, the height of Jim Crow laws in the South. (If you need a reference read The Help by Kathryn Stockett.)

Puzzling Questions

I just finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s latest novel, The Invention of Wings. It’s a story that rips at the gut and caused me to ask hard to answer questions. Such as

  • Why wasn’t I born in Sri Lanka?
  • How did I happen to inherit the great parents I had?
  • What would my life be like right now if I’d been born in Iraq?

I’ve thought about things like this for years, but when I read books like Kidd’s – about American slavery and cruelty – a kind of guilt settles around me. I’m always grateful too, but I feel undeserving of the blessings I’ve received in life. Why should I have such a comfortable life and others be chosen to live where cows are worshipped as people starve?

While I don’t ever remember any discussion on the subject, my spirit knew something didn’t feel right about those people on the back rows of Bus 28. So even though I was frightened, whenever I rode the bus after that day, I sat as far back as I could to the black section. It was my twelve year old way of saying “I want you to know I don’t agree with this.”

Of course none of them knew what I was saying by my gesture. I wasn’t as brave as Sarah Grimke in Kidd’s book, a actual Southern historical figure from Charlotte, South Carolina, who became a strong abolitionist and supporter of female equality. But in my heart I tried my best to identify with them in some small way. To say “You aren’t different from me.”

Reading her book brings all those questions back. Why wasn’t I black? How did I escape such brutal treatment or the disgusting living conditions that nine tenths of the world lives under?

I simply don’t know.

But this is what I do know. God ordained where I would be born and how my days would play out. Not in the fatalistic sense that takes away my freedom of choice or free will, but according to scripture He planned lots of details about my life.

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. ~ Psalm 139:16 NLT

From one human being he created all races of people and made them live throughout the whole earth. He himself fixed beforehand the exact times and the limits of the places where they would live. ~ Acts 17:26 GNT

God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do. ~ Ephesians 2:10 GNT

I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for. ~ Jeremiah 29:11 GNT

A Matter of Trust

It seems to me my life is a concoction of God’s sovereignty and my free choice. I accept that mostly it’s a mystery that calls for trust.

Doesn’t everything?

If it isn’t luck – random selection or indiscriminate circumstance – then it can only be that God had something in mind when He brought you and me into this crazy world. And His plan included

  • who we would be born to
  • where we’d live
  • what era we’d be born into
  • a predetermined plan for our days
  • a hope and plan for our future
  • the work He appointed for us to do
  • when we would die

I hadn’t the slightest idea when I sat near those black people in 1955 that one day I’d have multi-racial grandchildren, or that when I told my father I wanted to be a missionary God was already calling me to the plan He’d ordained for my life. But He did and He was already working His plan. I was always free to accept or reject it.

I still can’t answer those hard questions about why God made the choices He made, but I feel that because I’ve been so blessed I am able to share with those who have different circumstances. I pray for them, tell them about this great God of ours, and give wherever I can to lighten their load.

What about you? Whose load might you lighten today?

“Such as I have I give to you,” Peter said to the blind man. That kinda does away with the idea “If I win the lottery, I’ll…” We all have something someone else needs today. If we pay attention, we’ll get to fulfill some of those good works God appointed for us.

It’s never been about luck. It’s all grace.



  1. “It’s all grace”.

  2. Awesome piece, Cat! Lately I’ve been revisiting a similar age-old question, “what does following Jesus look like?” Surely it’s more than waking to prayer and devotions and then slipping into a day fractured by busyness. I know you’ve written on the topic of living deliberately many times. I guess it’s a question worthy of repeating to ourselves periodically. On a side note, in a college anthropology class I read “Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Riches.” I may be recalling incorrectly, but it explained religion away methodically. One point was that if starving Indians killed and ate their cows, they would be in even worse shape with no livestock to work the land, so cows are protected religiously. I don’t know if that’s accurate. Just digging up something I read a long time ago. We know our living God by intimate experience, not because we are afraid of the unknown as some would say. I enjoyed your selection of scriptures!

  3. Be as kind as you can be, do your best where you are and help others along the way.

  4. Boy, does this bring back memories! But I rode the #4 bus behind Woolworths (or was it Walgreens?) on Flagler Street. Even at that young age, it made me so sick to see the blacks in the back of the bus that I went back there and sat with them every time. I made some nice friends in those days.

    Buzz and I have often talked about how blessed he was to not be born in Syria; how thankful we are that his grandparents came here from Lebanon and Syria. Who knows? Maybe Buzz would have been a terrorist?

    We are all beyond blessed with gifts from the Father than I don’t think we’re even aware of most of the time. When I ponder this subject, I keep thinking of “Unto whom much is given, much is required.” We have the God given privilege and mandate to share out of our blessings with anyone God brings into our lives in order to build His Kingdom.

    What a gift!

    • I had to laugh at Buzzy being a terrorist. He’s one now!! You are so right about all this. We do have higher requirements for sure. Glad to give them too!

  5. As usual, your words touched my heart, Cathee. I know that God has ordained my time and place in this world (though sometimes I wish he’d picked an earlier time or a different place…lol). I am still working on mastering the art of contentment in all circumstances. We are all together on a journey…a journey home. <3

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