Anyone who hangs around me long enough finds out that I’m sort of a word nerd. I’m fascinated by the way words sound when we speak them, and how they work together when we form thoughts and sentences. If I say, “The sun smiles on my face,” it evokes a completely different emotion than if I say, “The sun is in my eyes.” I believe my word fixation really helps me as a songwriter. It keeps me (hopefully) from singing words that sound bad when you sing them, or pairing words that make for awkward phrasing.
I’m particularly fascinated by words known as “ideophones,” which can be quickly defined as words that give a vivid representation of an idea by their sound. In other words, they sound like what they mean. Some examples in the English language are pitter-patter (the sound of rain), twinkle (something sparkly or shiny), swish (the sound of swift movement), and ta-da (the sound of fanfare). Ideophones don’t really work as written elements … they don’t take on the characteristic unless you say them aloud, or at least think about how they sound when spoken aloud.
One of my favorite ideophones – or at least I think it’s an ideophone – is the word “serendipity.” It just sounds happy. Musical. Joyful. Colorful. And with good reason – serendipity describes a chance event that occurs in a happy or beneficial way. Basically, serendipity is a stroke of good luck.
It’s interesting. The more I read scripture, the more I begin to see that serendipity actually comes from God.
After all, God is omniscient, which means He knows everything. He knows things that haven’t even happened yet. How do I know this? Well, scripture is full of accounts where God declares in advance what will occur later. Some of these prophecies, such as Jesus’ prediction that Peter would deny him that night (Matthew 26:34), are fulfilled at once. Others happen within a few years, such as the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem, which Jesus predicted about 40 years before it happened (Matthew 24:2). Some are fulfilled hundreds of years later, as were the many Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah’s arrival. Still others peer into to the very distant future, such as Peter’s prophecy of a new heaven and earth (2 Peter 3:12-13).
In my own life as a worship leader, I’m amazed at the prominent role serendipity often plays.
Recently, I had planned to introduce the song “Break Every Chain” to the congregation, but a terrible 14-inch blizzard blew through town on Saturday night and Sunday morning, forcing us to cancel church. I was really disappointed because I love the song, so I began to conjure up rationales for using it the following week, even though I wasn’t sure it fit the theme for the day. “To heck with it,” I thought. “It’s a good song. I’ll find a way to make it fit.”
When will I learn?
See, God has His hand on everything we do. He is the God “who is, and who was, and who is to come” (Revelation 1:8). He is the eternal “I AM” (Exodus 3:14, John 8:58). Perhaps it can be said that God exists outside of time – to Him, the past, the present and the future are all one. So when I boast that “I” will find a way to make it work, it’s really God saying, “I am instructing you to sing this song for reasons you can’t yet see; reasons I’ll reveal to you when it’s time.”
Sure enough, God took off the blinders that next Sunday. Near the end of his sermon, Pastor Glen set his notes down, pulled up a stool, and spoke straight from the heart. He had planned to talk about something that had to do with Vince Lombardi, but with pain etched in his face, he said, “It just doesn’t seem appropriate.” One of our friends, a local Methodist pastor named Kiboko Kiboko, had a problem. Born and raised in the Congo, where you can be killed for your Christian faith, Kiboko still has family there. What we didn’t know was that Kiboko’s brother had been thrown into prison for speaking out on behalf of the faith. Pastor Glen had run into Kiboko at the bank earlier that week – the serendipity of God, perhaps? – where Kiboko was withdrawing hundreds of dollars in cash. He would use this money to bribe Congo government officials into hopefully releasing his brother. No guarantees – either that his brother would be released, or that Kiboko himself wouldn’t be thrown into jail. Or worse. Fighting back tears at the thought that he may never again see his friend in this world, Glen said, “That’s just how things are done in the Congo.” There was hardly a dry eye as we prayed for Kiboko and his family.
“I am instructing you to sing this song for reasons you can’t yet see; reasons I’ll reveal to you when it’s time.” Talk about your V8 head-slap moments. Clearly, God had a plan for the song “Break Every Chain.”
Serendipity? Sure. Why not? But you’ll never convince me that it wasn’t God-ordained. My faith, made strong through the Word, tells me that God had it all planned. On my own, I’m nothing. I have no strength, no power, no foresight, no wisdom. But I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13). That includes choosing exactly the right song for exactly the right moment. Through no wisdom or intelligence of my own, I included “Break Every Chain” in the worship plan. Glen hadn’t even seen Kiboko when that decision was made. God knew.
The serendipity of God. Amazing.by