Updated: Jan 11
It was meant to be. Not.
An inebriated driver crosses the median and hits another car head-on. The drunk walks away unscathed, but the second-car driver becomes a quadriplegic. If this was meant to be, who meant it?
A woman hiking in the woods sees a bit of canvass poking through the dirt off trail. Investigating, she unearths a bag containing $150,000 in cash. She keeps the money and deposits it in a series of new bank accounts so as to not arouse suspicion. Obviously (to the woman), she was meant to find the dough.
Over 5,000,000 people worldwide have died from the COVID virus. If this was meant to be, someone has a morbid sense of purpose.
A man on the way to the airport has a flat tire and misses his flight. The plane goes down with two-hundred and eighty-seven passengers and crew killed. The fortunate missed-the-flight fellow thanks whoever meant him to have the flat and miss the trip. The 287 fatalities didn’t have time to wonder why their deaths were meant to be.
Another way people phrase it: everything has a purpose. If everything was meant to be or have a purpose, there has to be some form of a Grand Engineer behind it all. Some call it God; others use terms like fate or destiny. This appears to be a comforting explanation to lots of folks when good things happen. Not so much so to parents when a child dies . . . or to a person in the latter stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
There are a couple of problematic issues with the meant-to-be philosophy. One is identifying what is supposedly meaning everything to happen. Some fancy a divine being sitting somewhere up above the clouds while others pinpoint a load of crystals beneath a red mountain outside of Sedona. Whatever image one’s brain might conjure of the source of meaning-to-be, a disturbing piece of the puzzle has to do with the whimsical nature of the causer.
One of my best high school buddies and another friend from Miami University (Ohio) both participated in the Vietnam war . . . and both came back in body bags. Others – like me – came back alive and relatively well. To think that something pointedly determined who died there and who came back alive is to imagine a force that can at times be graciously merciful or malevolently cruel. The ancient Greeks came up with several gods to fit this bill.
To propose that my wife and I were meant to be together presumes that my parents were meant to meet and marry . . . that my dad was meant become a corporate insurance executive posted to Indianapolis . . . that my folks were meant to buy a home in the school district where I would meet my future wife . . . and that the cute blonde cheerleader was meant to fall in love with me in the sea of thousands of other boys in my high school.
When I lived in rain-spotty northern Manitoba, a farmer friend told me he was praying for rain. Without out it soon, his crops would whither. I replied that God didn’t design where it would or wouldn’t rain. He pointed out that I didn’t understand the Bible and he was going to keep praying. Three weeks later he came to my office perplexed because it did rain . . . ten miles away on his atheist neighbor’s farm but missing his. Meant to be?
Was I meant to become a Lutheran pastor? What if I had been born the son of passionate Orthodox Jews in Israel? Did some force predetermine that I would have two daughters and one son instead of two sons and one daughter? Did some grand designer determine that I come out of the womb as I did instead of with Down’s syndrome or missing some limbs?
Those who embrace the meant-to-be philosophy unknowingly worship the ancient Greed goddess, Ananke, who was considered to be the dictator of fate and circumstance. It appears that for many people this is a workable explanation to all happenings. Believing that a sometimes-benevolent-sometimes-malicious force orders life with all of its vagaries does not work for me.