Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
The hinges of history are, at times, very small, even inconsequential things upon which momentous events take place. Take, for example, the tiny piece of a fabric-backed rubber mat protruding from the dirt in the courtyard of a small farm yard in Iraq. Reported the New York Times, “An edge of a fabric-backed rubber mat protruding from the dirt caught the eye of an American special forces soldier as he searched the courtyard of a rundown farm in northern Iraq….” Something so small as a piece of rubber mat—the kind that you find on doorsteps the world over-led to the capture of the world’s most hunted man.
While some dismiss the event as “happenstance,” the whole flow of probability would make his being taken alive an extremely unlikely event. Soldiers were poised, ready to pull the pin on a grenade and drop it in the hole covered by the mat when hands emerged and a voice not accustomed to speaking English stammered, “I am Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq, and I am willing to negotiate.” (John Burns and Eric Schmitt, “Humble Hideout,” Register, Dec. 16, 2003, news 3).
Uncertain as to the identity of the bearded, disheveled man standing in the hole, the soldier replied, “President Bush sends his regards!”
In that moment, history was made, and a very small out-of-place piece of rubber mat, sticking out of the dirt became the hinge upon which history turned.
A piece of rope in the hands of an angry mob was the hinge of history leading to the demise of the Fascist dictator of Italy, Benito Mussolini, in 1945, as he tried to escape into neutral Switzerland.
For a high school drop out by the name of Adolph Hitler who became the executioner of 14 million people in the Holocaust, it was a single bullet fired through his throat.
For the Allied soldiers forced into a pocket at Dunkirk by Hitler’s soldiers, the hinge of history was an unseasonable fog that allowed 300,000 men to be evacuated to England, thus turning the tide of history in favor of the West.
For the vast armada of 130 ships and 30,000 Spaniards the hinge of history was an unseasonable strong wind that in 1604 drove the Spanish fleet on the rocks of the Irish coast, saving the English fleet, a decisive event, the alternative of which would have vastly changed the face of modern history.
Question: How do you view the small events which serve as the hinges of history—a chance happening or the strong, often silent hand of God as He directs in the flow of history? If, of course, you believe that God is sovereign, if you believe as the Psalmist wrote, “It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another” (Psalm 75:7), then you see His hand instead of the label of coincidence which others use to account for the events which shape the world’s history.
Long ago Shakespeare wrote that there is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we will.
The reality is that the events which form the hinges of history are often very small, often undetected, which make the difference. So is it in our lives as well—a friendship, a closed door, a good deed, a thoughtful bit of advice, can send you in a different direction which you later recognize as a decisive event in your past.
Look for the small hinges of history even in your own life. They are the small nudges from on high as God directs your life, protecting you, guiding you, and showing you the way to go. No wonder Daniel wrote, “He is the living God… He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth” (Daniel 6:26-27). Indeed.
Resource reading: Daniel 6