crisis of faith

Coincidence as Evidence: an Observation on Faith

“Do you have an apartment that you rent out on your ranch?” I asked at the end of a fifteen minute phone call – our fourth in six weeks talking about our upcoming trip to Colorado. He answered slowly as he processed the question, “Why do you ask?” That started a conversation I’ll remember for quite some time.

One Answer to a Crisis of Faith

The past few days, my youngest son and I have been reading about the macro-mysteries of a universe that has no end and the micro-mysteries of the blueprint of the DNA in living beings. He’s had a bit of struggle with his faith lately, and somehow, when we are completely overwhelmed with things that we can’t explain, our faith is reignited. So we talked about things we can’t explain.

Something about realizing how small and fragile and infinitely complex we are wakes up the reality that a Creator may be the only solution for our belief problem. It’s like we begin to grasp the truth of an infinite God because of our inability to understand the mysteries that shout the Glory of that very Creator. So, in some sense, the overwhelming lack of answers that leads to a crisis of faith can be the only clue that saves us from a faith that would otherwise be dead.

I Found a God Big Enough

The first time I stood facing the 18,000-feet mountains of Wrangell-St. Elias peaks of eastern Alaska, I was face-to-face with the realization that there was nothing I, or any other human, could do that could rival  the beauty and mystery of what stares back at us when we open our eyes to a simple sunset or a newborn baby. Creation really does reveal the glory of God and, as Romans Chapter 1 teaches us, we are stopped dead in our tracks in our path to find another route to truth and fulfillment. There is no excuse and there are no options when it comes to true faith.

The Call

Sitting with my phone to my ear on the final call prepping for that trip, why DID I ask? I’m still not quite sure. I think that street address triggered something in the recesses of my brain. You know the feeling of familiarity you get with certain people, but you don’t really know why. That’s what I’d been feeling for some time, but I just couldn’t target the source  of the intuition – until I asked for his address.

About eight weeks before the phone conversation, my boss had asked me to scavenge the internet to find a coach for an adventure show episode we were filming. “If possible, I’d like to use someone that works with the Lyle Sankey school.” That was his only request in my random GOOGLE search for a coach. 

I found one bull riding trainer that worked with Sankey. Ty Rinaldo of TZ Bucking Bulls in Larkspur, Colorado. Larkspur is a small, out-of-the-way town halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs. One of those towns that seems like it’s just there to bridge the gap. Hardly anyone knows where it is. But “coincidentally,”  I did. I actually lived there for a short time about twenty years ago. “Of all places,” I thought. “randomly searching for a bull riding trainer and he happened to live just a few miles from where I started my adult life.”  

It took me a couple tries to get in  touch with Ty, but I soon knew that he was  the guy we were looking for. Respectful, excited, and animated, he would be perfect for filming this episode. I didn’t think much about going back  to Larkspur, time was short and we were busy. We just spent the next couple weeks planning the shoot. 

“Why do you ask?” Ty said. As soon as he said it, I knew it wasn’t the first time I’d been to TZ Ranch. My wife and I had lived in a temporary home for the first few months after we moved to Larkspur just after we were married. When we had to find a new home, I found this short classified ad that described a little studio apartment on a ranch. Julie and I headed out to see if this little apartment would be for us. After three miles of dusty dirt road with twenty MPH winds, we arrived at the ranch. We both decided it was too much dust and wind to work for us, but we enjoyed a few minutes with a man named Ty and his wife. They told us about their two boys and their cowboy-friendly charismatic hospitality stuck with us. 

Twenty years later, a random GOOGLE search that could have turned up a trainer anywhere in the 3.8 million square miles we call the United States of America among the 327-million people who call it home led us to a man and his 2 boys that we had stood face-to-face with approximately 7,300 days earlier. 

“Why do you ask?” 

“This is going to be hard to believe, but I’ve been to your house before.” I honestly couldn’t quite get the words out. I was in awe. You can believe what you want about chance, but that was too ridiculous to call anything other than “on purpose.”  Two men meeting, with no obvious connection, no common friends or family, and nothing at all to make sense of the mystery. We met again after a chance, short-lived, inconsequential handshake twenty years earlier. 

More to the Story

I  can’t know God’s full intentions for the 2nd chance meeting. No one can see the full story God is writing of our lives. But I can tell you that probably both Ty and I needed a slap-in-the-face reminder that God hasn’t forgotten us.  I needed to remember that the marriage relationship is one of the most sacred (and fragile) gifts on this side of a restored creation. Ty needed to feel the embrace of a heavenly father in the midst of one of the loneliest and confusing seasons of his life. God still loves to make his care tangible to us with occasional surprises that can’t be written off as chance.

I’m sure there is much more to this story. Only God determines when we get to peer through the window of our finite time-bound barriers to His yet-to-be-seen reality. But, it was an honor to see a glimpse of the power of His authorship. Maybe in hindsight it wasn’t just my youngest son who needed a re-ignited faith. Maybe God knew that the boy’s struggle was so that his dad might see the unexplainable mysteries and once again…


For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope and love, abide these three, but the greatest of these is love. -1 Cor. 13:12-13  (NASB)