Have you ever asked yourself the question, "Which words sound nice? Which words do I like the best?"
Let me try out a few: lollipop, tickle, lickety-split. Or here is a beautiful Jewish word "Shalom." It means almost anything you want it to mean: hello, good-bye, I love you, farewell. It depends upon how you say it. Or how about this word -- serendipity?
Is this a new word to you? Horace Walpole coined it. It came from an old Persian fairy tale, "The Three Princes of Serendip." Every time the three princes took a trip, by coincidence, along the way, they found the most profitable and enjoyable "extra" benefits.
For example, here are a few samples out of history: Columbus set out to find a new route to Asia. Serendipity! He found America instead. Edison set out to discover the electric light. Serendipity! He discovered the phonograph in the process. Pasteur was trying to find a process for keeping wine sweet. Serendipity! He came upon the process of pasteurization. Serendipity. What a delightful word.
Jesus suggested the very same idea when he said, "He who finds his life loses it. But he who sets out to lose his life ... Serendipity! ... lo and behold, he finds it!" Or again, Jesus suggested that if we seek one important thing, we would also find a whole world of other delightful things too. He said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these other things (the ones we're looking for) will be added unto you as well." (Matthew 6:33)
Ask most people what they are looking for and their answer is: happiness, security, peace of mind. But one does not find these things by making them a direct campaign. I do not find happiness by setting out to find it. No. Serendipity. Happiness is the joyous by-product of doing something else like doing the will of God, for example.
It is in the sweet act of giving perfume to another that some is bound to get on you. It is in the act of giving happiness to someone else that we find it for ourselves.
Try it. Try seeking first the will of God. Try seeking out the happiness of someone else. Lo and behold, there is a "serendipity."
Francis Guither, a pastor for 46 years, is the author of seven books. Guither is retired and lives in Quincy at Good Samaritan Home with his wife Katharine.