By Kamilah A. Jones
I do not believe in coincidences.
As I move forward on my faith journey, this has become divinely clear because some things miraculously align and remarkably connect. Some things can’t be happenstance because of what I’ve personally witnessed being such a well-crafted, astute illustration that masterfully comes together that can only be described as highly divine to be a coincidence.
Just as how naturally occurring water runs forcefully or peacefully through a valley. How awesome is it to be blessed with sight or the opportunity to feel or even hear these running waters? How divine is it to majestically witness the grandeur of this naturally occurring experience? An experience that not only offers itself to us as human beings in its wondrous display, but somehow it also simultaneously works to be in symbiotic union with everything in its environment. How lucky, how fortunate, it is for the grass, trees, animals, and sea creatures to somehow seamlessly meet the water that runs through the valley, staged at times with peaks that softly penetrate the bluest of skies. How harmonious is the perfect pitch that is not orchestrated by our most superior, talented, and gifted beings in all parts of the Earth? It is a musical recital that none of us conduct though it instantly reminds and forces us to reckon with our Highest Power, a power that innately feels omnipotent in all things.
Both of my grandmothers were born in 1927, a divine coincidence. The same year though different cities, states, and completely different countries though strikingly similar in several ways.
My maternal grandma, Carmel Rutherford (May 23, 1927 – present), was born and raised in a country within the beautiful Caribbean before its independence from the external rule and oppressive power exerted onto the land. She referred to this time as “Donkey Years” with no running water or electricity. A period when if you did not have the monetary resources, you did not have the opportunity to go to school.
My paternal grandma, Minnie Rose Jones (March 3, 1927 – June 27, 2013), was born and raised in a country described to have united states. This was specifically during a razor-sharp division between the North and the South. A time when even if you had the monetary resources, you were subjugated to a position to feel, see, and live within a divide that categorized the beauty of varying colors into a color scheme that only allowed for black or white. Despite these facts, I remember having sweet conversations with my paternal grandma. I would witness the joyful display on her face as she reminisced with sublime joy about enjoying working in the garden with her friends and stating that the tomatoes were her favorite during such division, hardship, and naturally fear and terror within her place of origin.
As for my maternal grandma, I would watch her swing her machete to manicure our gardens during my childhood and see her immerse her hands in the Earth’s ground. I always viewed her as a woman of the land, a force who reckoned with nature and respected it. I watched her appreciation for the Earth as she carefully tended to the gardens in the front and back of my parent’s home. Fresh mint, aloe vera, plums, pears all so plentiful to where our family had more than enough and delightfully had more than enough for ourselves in addition to joyfully sharing the harvest with our neighbors.
Again, both of my grandmas were born in 1927. They had different birth origins though similar livelihoods within a culture of oppressive systems, love for the Earth and being in harmony with the land, and tremendous faith in God, which guided their hearts, minds, and spirits as they stepped out on faith for their selves and our family.
My paternal grandma’s favorite song was Great Is Thy Faithfulness:
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me
My maternal grandma’s favorite song is Through It All:
Through it all,
through it all,
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.
Though titled differently and sung with different harmonies and melodies, both mirrored the same message giving all honor to God in recognition that there is nobody greater than God. Both songs offered inspiration and personal testimony to their life stories and how they choose to preserve through life with God.
An experience that could be viewed celestially in the manner that the stars aligned when the union of our families divinely occurred. A union where their rich histories of faith, challenges, triumph, and love taught us, guided, and showered all of us with wisdom. They have offered so many life lessons that I will always cherish, and they will serve as a guide in countless ways: what a loving gift, a priceless and lovingly rich gift.
I think this is a lesson I carry in my heart, spirit, and mind as I maneuver our modern systematic constructions in society and the world. It presents a global problem where a pattern has persisted that privileges some and oppresses others. We see evidence of this in our various systems in our society and world that protect some while dishonoring others, where access is provided to some while closing the door to others, and where some of our most vulnerable populations are preyed on while others are consistently elevated when they’ve already experienced promotions and benefits that other do not.
It is an experience that subjects and objects the marginalized while others implicitly or forcefully turn their gaze, choosing not to acknowledge or cultivate these differences. The tireless web of these intersecting socio-cultural factors can be endless if we consider nationalistic, political, racial, economic, gender, sexuality, faith, and spiritual variables that we all embody. Despite these differences, there is already a naturally occurring remedy within us if we are willing to connect the source to unify and support all.
How do we find the thread of commonality through all variables of difference?
I think love is the goal, and by divine coincidence, love is a gift, a solution that is already innate.
“Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected in us.” – 1 John 4: 11-12
It would be marvelous if we all unified through love and extend love to one another. The action of love is by seeing, hearing, acknowledging, and supporting others with love. The love of letting pride, fear, inhibitions, anxieties intentionally stop for the incomparable gain of love. Betting, taking the risk to choose and operate in love because of the lovingly gains. God has freely given us love, so who are we not to freely offer the same love compassionately to others?
We all witness the kind of naturally occurring love as the river flows through the valley, carefully hugging each part of the river bend and effortlessly working in harmony. This is the form of love I believe can be healing and transformative in our society and our world.
I witnessed this form of love within my grandmothers. The kind of love which makes me remember and miss the dollar bills my paternal grandmother put in Christmas cards and Birthday cards that reminded me not of dollar amounts but the consistent deposits of love she showered on me in countless ways and loving life lessons that can’t be monetarily purchased.
Lessons from my paternal grandmother the lessons from a dollar bill. Every Sunday, she always pushed a dollar in my hand with guidance to place it on the collection plate at our church. It was a wealthy lesson that taught me that even with a dollar, it could be stretched to support so many when we collectively do our part in the service of others.
I endlessly appreciate the loving lessons also gained because of the songs they cherished and lovingly sung as they walked through the valleys of life, knowing that God is faithful, and God continues to be with us through all things. In this form of expression, it was evident that God loved them, and God’s love was alive in them as the offered love to others.
There is no coincidence that love is already a remedying gift within us. Love is a mutual experience. Are you willing to offer the love that is already innate within you to others as well? God is love and God lives in all of us which is not a coincidence and should prompt us to recognize divine love within us and extend it to others.
Will you extend this same form of love, a kind of love that no one can buy though it’s already freely within you to extend? Whether your answer is yes or no, I genuinely wish you divine love and for all of those that divinely cross your path on your journey.
Dr. Kamilah A. Jones, LCSW is a CBF Leadership Scholar pursuing her MDiv at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.