Serendipity Suffers

I read a fairly wide range of things throughout my day.  But one staple is the morning newspaper.  I am one of the old-fashioned people who like to have the physical newspaper in hand.  Every morning I make a trek to the store for a cup of coffee and the daily newspaper.  It is usually early in the morning, so it is quiet and, during much of the year, still dark.  It is a special time.

Sometime when I begin reading something, I think I might get an idea or be inspired for one of these inspirational pieces.  Other things I read, I have little expectation that something significant will appear.  For example, I like to begin reading the sports page.  I will even read an article about a game I may have seen the day before on tv!  Another thing I will do is read the whole paper.  Perhaps this stems from my early days when this was the way we were informed about our world.  Certainly, the internet has changed that and I am active on the web.  But I also am a throwback.

So it was that I settled in my chair with coffee in hand and read the sports page.  There was no revelation there.  Most of what I read I already knew.  And then I moved to the travel section of the newspaper.  I like this section because it often has a story about a place I have already visited.  I like both domestic stories and foreign.  And there are also stories about places I might visit some day.

My eyes wander to the bottom of the page and this headlined jumped at me: “Don’t let your baggage weigh you down.”  I smiled, as I thought how much I know about this topic.  I have traveled enough to know how to travel light.  And so I began to read Rick Steves’ piece with the assumption that I already knew what he was going to tell me.  And in almost every sense I did know everything.

Although I have never met Steves, I feel like I know him.  He writes regularly for the print media and he has a travel series on tv that I have seen.  He has a great job.  Somebody apparently pays for him to run around the globe, meet interesting people, eat some great food and report on it.  I would do that in a heartbeat.  He does it well and I appreciate that.

As I neared the end of the brief article, I hit an intriguing idea.  The idea began when I read the following sentence.  “Packing light isn’t just about saving time or money---it’s about your traveling lifestyle.”  I liked that idea that packing light is about my traveling lifestyle.  I realized there were spiritual analogies in this and what was to come.  My mind perked up.

The spiritual analogy works well if we think about life as a journey.  This is an ancient metaphor for understanding our life.  Life is a trip from birth to death---a journey.  It is intriguing to think about life reflects a “traveling lifestyle.”  Our lifestyle might be characterized by wealth and greed.  I might be poor and uneducated and that is a very different traveling lifestyle.

I am sure the way we think about and live out our spirituality is reflected in our traveling lifestyle.  On my best days I hope my spiritual lifestyle is characterized by caring and sharing.  I hope it is other-centered and not totally self-centered.  I am not perfect, so I am not a model of the spiritual lifestyle.  I am a work in progress.

But I do know it is best to pack light.  It is hard to be spiritual with huge possessions and very difficult to be spiritual when we are possessive.  It is tough to be spiritual when we don’t care and don’t share.  When we have too much stuff, we have too much baggage.  As Steves said, “Too much luggage weighs you down.”  When we have too much, then we are too focused on what is.  Change is often threatening.  I get stuck in this place too often.

That is when the next, short sentence of Steves’ profoundly impacted me.  If we have pack too much---carrying too much baggage on our trip through life---then “Serendipity suffers.”  Serendipity is one of my favorite words.  Serendipity is a pleasant, sometimes, great surprise.  As I understand it, it is always good.  Serendipity is good things coming our way we could not have expected and did not see coming.

Theologically, serendipity is grace and mercy.  It is love for us—realizing that we are cared for in ways we didn’t merit and may not even be able to explain.  Steves is right.  If we are carrying too much baggage---packed too much for the trip---we will suffer our chances for serendipity.  It is really easy to close ourselves off from serendipity.  If you are in a rut or in bondage, serendipity has been walled off.

I am not sure we can prepare for serendipity.  But we can travel lightly.  We can be open and even expectant.  If we pack too much baggage for our spiritual travel through life, serendipity suffers.

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