Monday, August 24, 2009

Serendipity: the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things unexpectedly

How often have you looked for one thing and found another? It happens to me all the time. I look for a favorite recipe and come across a long lost one. I search for a book in a storage box and come across a photo that brings to mind a pleasant memory. These are serendipities.

I was a teenager when my father introduced me to the word serendipity, and I’ve been fascinated by it ever since. It was only fitting that last Christmas when my parents, sister, and two nieces were in New York, we went to my favorite NY sandwich and sweet shop, Serendipity 3. Three men from different parts of the country descended on the Big Apple in the early 1950’s hoping to make their fame and fortune in the entertainment business. Instead, they established New York’s first coffee house boutique, which is still rated a favorite Manhattan eatery. My souvenir mug is inscribed with Horace Walpole’s definition of serendipity.

The art of making happy discoveries, or finding the unexpectedly pleasant by chance or sagacity

Walpole coined the word based on a fairy tale called The Three Princes of Serendip, who during their travels constantly discovered things they did not seek. The word describes those unexpected things that happen when we are pursuing something else. For example, Columbus, looking for a direct route to Asia, found America. Edison, while looking for an electric light, found a phonograph. The Kellogg brothers accidentally discovered wheat flakes when they let cooked wheat sit for a day and then tried to roll it. They ended up with a flaky material instead of a sheet, and this became Wheaties. As a chocoholic, I’m partial to this next one. The founder of Toll House Cookies attempted to make chocolate drop cookies, but she didn’t have the required chocolate. Instead, she broke a candy bar and placed the chunks into the cookie mix. These became chocolate chips. Thank you very much!

Not only did Dad introduce me to the word serendipity, but also to the book Serendipity by J. Wallace Hamilton. Hamilton writes of its application throughout history, but my appreciation for this book goes beyond those facts. He suggests that Jesus gave us the greatest of all serendipities,
“Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33
In other words, our aim, our goal, should be in seeking God’s Kingdom. We should seek God and his will for our lives. In doing so, “all these things will be added unto you.” “These things” are those unexpected, un-sought for, valuable things that God wants to bless us with. In this passage, Jesus is telling his disciples to trust God for all of our needs. He wants us to seek the higher calling and in doing so he’ll provide all of our needs and bless us in many ways.

We know that some of the most valuable gifts in life are not found by directly pursuing them. Think about the fruit of the spirit, the attributes of a Christian life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These come to us, not always by seeking them, but as the result of seeking God’s Kingdom. The results of trusting Jesus are joy and peace and lasting happiness.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13).

Look for serendipities in you life but make your goal to seek first the Kingdom of God. Then let’s see what serendipities come our way!

Please share your own serendipities. Click on the title Serendipities and scroll to the bottom. Click on comment.


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Dale Lund said...

My Dad also introduced me to "Serendipity" by J. Wallace Hamilton, and gave me his only copy. I've had a life full of wonderful serendipities since, and am now finally reading the book a second time. It's nice to discover another who appreciates this work.

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