The universe is always sending us little messages causing serendipities,
reminding us to stop, to believe in something more and to be grateful. – Anonymous
Early this morning when it was still dark, I woke up feeling anxious about the problems of the day and the troubles of the world. It’s easy to feel discouraged, even overwhelmed, as we face the dilemmas, disappointments, and hurts of life. It may be difficult, even impossible, to say, “I’m grateful for this new day.”
About three years ago I was diagnosed with cancer and paraneoplastic syndrome – a very rare syndrome that is difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat. In my case, the syndrome revealed itself through antibodies attacking my central nervous system causing an almost instant inability to walk or move my legs and feet. Since then I have moved from NYC to Penney Farms, Florida to be near Mayo Clinic – an amazing place where the sign at the entrance states: “Patient Care” rather than “Hospital.” Mayo has not only saved my life but my vision too (that story is in my blog “The Gift of Sight” written in September 2015). And years before that, I had three close encounters with death including a lethal streptococcus infection, a serious accident as a pedestrian hit by a car, and a brain tumor. So it would be very easy to say “Not again!! God, why me? Do I deserve this?”
Next week I will lead a retreat and preach a sermon about Mary, the Mother of Jesus. As a teenager, Mary was given the shocking news that she, a virgin betrothed to a carpenter, would give birth to a baby boy who was to be named Jesus. She must have been scared out of her mind knowing there was the possibility of being stoned to death or being rejected by her betrothed. Like Mary, when an unexpected and alarming announcement or “bad news” faces us, we too may be scared out of our minds. “How can this be happening to me? How can I possibly deal with this?”
What is striking in Mary’s story is that the angel who greeted her with such astounding and scandalous news also comforted her with the message, “Do not be afraid.” Maybe that’s the real point of her story and of all our stories. I strongly believe God wants the same consolation for each one of us in our times of distress or devastation. The message may be saying to each one of us: “God loves you profoundly even in difficult times. Fear not!”
So like Mary, we need to ponder the questions, consider possible options, and turn to wise people and to God for support and guidance. Maybe we will discover joys in the unexpected and even experience the possibility of serendipitous spiritual growth. Serendipity is described as a “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”. It was created by Horace Walpole in 1754, when he made an unexpected discovery in a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.”
So maybe our response to waking up to another day should be “Thank you, God, for many gifts – our life, our breath, joy, the beauty and wonders in the world, serendipitous events.” But we shouldn’t take anything for granted. We need to be grateful and create a better life for ourselves and for the world.
* Have you had bad times that turned out to be gifts of serendipity?
* What are the unexpected gifts in your life that you may want to give thanks for?
God, Giver of life, thank you for giving us another day. Help us to let go of our fears and to learn to be grateful that you love us and have shared your beautiful creation with us. We are overwhelmed by your love for us. Thank you, thank you.