Steven Spielberg created a sci-fi classic in 1977 with the release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the story of an ordinary, working-class guy whose life is changed by an encounter with a UFO. The phrase, “the third kind”, designates the inclusion of actual encounters with aliens in the story. The United States Library of Congress designated the film as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” in December of 2007, and it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Now, this post is really NOT about UFOs or aliens. It’s more about the phraseology, “close encounters of…..”. Yesterday I began thinking about what I have termed Close Encounters of the GOD Kind.
The good thing about teaching a children’s Bible class in Sunday School is having to read the Bible as part of class preparation. This week the young ladies’ (5th and 6th grade) class that I teach studied Esther. Esther was a young, beautiful Jewish girl who became the queen of Persia at a time when Jewish captives in that country came under persecution and threatened annihilation. She became a reluctant but effective champion for her people. At one point, in an effort to encourage her to act heroically, her adoptive parent advised her: “…And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b, NIV)
Esther’s story reminded me of another. Genesis recounts the beginnings of the Jewish nation. One of Jacob’s twelve sons was Joseph. The recipient of his father’s obvious favoritism, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. While in Egypt, with divine help, Joseph became powerful, enabling him to save his entire family from famine. His brothers feared retribution for their evil deed when they approached Joseph to request aid. However, Joseph offered a different perspective: “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Genesis 45:5, NIV)
Do you ever consider the “close encounters of the God kind that occur in our lives? Because I do believe that they are real. It may be the head-on collision that almost happened, but didn’t. Or the phone call or note originating with you that arrived at a pivotal time in the recipient’s life and made a real difference in the order of things. Maybe you were the recipient of that call or note. Perhaps you’ve always longed to teach or sing or play an instrument or write! That longing may be God’s hand prodding you to branch out in your life experience. Maybe you have been at just the right place at just the right time with just the right words or skills to change the direction a life is taking (or to save a life). Maybe your life work (teaching, building, nursing, healing) is not just a job or profession but a true calling–aren’t you blessed? Do you acknowledge the reality of a divine being who is planning and directing our life course? How often do we write events off to luck or coincidence when divine intervention is the real explanation?
For much of my life, a small plaque has been in my bedroom, as it is even now in my adult years. I have no idea whose work it is. In my childhood, the version pictured below was sold door to door. The imagery is a beloved interpretation of God’s watch care over His children, hazardous though our walks may be. And, hazardous they would truly be, without His loving care. I invite you to join me this and every day in being thankful and joyful and full of praise to the Lord for all of our “CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE GOD KIND!