The Game of Inches
July 8, 2020
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In the summer of 1957, twelve-year-old Ed Catmull was driving cross-country with his family to Yellowstone National Park. As they zigzagged on a canyon road with no guardrail, a car driving in the opposite direction drifted into their lane. Ed remembers his mom screaming, his dad swerving. They came within two inches of driving off the cliff, game over.
That’s how close we came to missing Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Up. Why? Because Ed Catmull is the founder and president of Pixar Animation Studios. So as I see it, no Ed means no Toy Story, Toy Story 2, or Toy Story 3.
Looking back on that close call, Ed Catmull said, “Two more inches—no Pixar.” But it’s not just Pixar’s animated movies that would have gone missing. Ed noted, with no small measure of satisfaction, how many Pixar employees have met, married, and had what he calls Pixar kids. “All those Pixar couples have no inkling of the two inches that could have kept them from meeting or their children from being conceived.”
Life is a game of inches!
It’s two-inch events that change our trajectory.
After a few too many drinks, Dee Duncan was standing on a street corner in Georgetown at two o’clock in the morning. A cab pulled up, Dee got in the backseat, and the driver said, “You were doing something you shouldn’t have been doing, weren’t you?” That’ll sober you up in a hurry!
The cabby-prophet said, “I never drive in this area of town, but the Lord told me to turn down this street, that there was someone He needed to talk to.”
As he drove Dee across town to his apartment, he told him that God had a plan and purpose for his life. He also told him he needed to find a church. The very next day Dee walked into National Community Church for the first time. He started attending regularly, got plugged into a small group, and even went on a mission trip to Zambia with one of my children. But my favorite part of the story is the day he sat two inches from a girl named Anna. A few years later Dee got up on stage after one of our services, got down on one knee, and asked Anna if he could have her hand in marriage.
Now rewind the tape.
What if that taxi driver hadn’t obeyed that little prompting to turn down that street at that moment? I don’t think Dee would have found National Community Church. And while I don’t want to belittle the sovereignty of God one iota, I’m not sure Dee would have found Christ or Anna either.
What I am sure of is this: God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time. Of course, it often seems like the wrong place at the wrong time. But like a grand master who strategically positions his pawns, bishops, kings, and queens, God is setting you up.
Let me put my cards on the table. I don’t believe in coincidence, not if you are living a Spirit-led life. I believe in Providence. I believe in a sovereign God who is ordering your footsteps, preparing good works in advance, and making all things work together for good. Of course, some things won’t make sense until we cross the space-time continuum and enter eternity. In the meantime don’t worry about meeting the right person. Focus on becoming the right person. If you keep doing the right things day in and day out, God will hold up His end of the bargain!
Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.