Lucky Breaks

From Rev. Jeremy Simons
January 8, 2019

As long as I have been watching football I have seen coaches call timeouts just before field goal attempts in an effort to “ice the kicker.” The only time that I ever remember it working was at the end of Sunday’s Eagles-Bears Wild Card matchup. By the time we knew of the timeout, Cody Parkey’s first kick was already sailing through the goal posts. After the timeout, his second attempt was tipped and clanged off the left upright, turning the Eagles impending defeat into victory.

It was a lucky break in a hard-fought game, one that was tragically unlucky for Chicago fans, but was like a miracle to Philadelphia.

We know that luck is a real thing, with real consequences that are both natural and spiritual:

“Scarcely anyone knows that fortune has its origin in the spiritual world. In a social gathering I once played a commonly known game of chance in which dice are used, while the spirits present with me spoke to me about fortune in games. They said that good fortune was represented to them by means of a bright cloud, and ill fortune by means of a somber one, and that when a somber cloud was seen near me I could never win. Seeing that sign they were also foretelling to me the changes of fortune that took place in the game. From this I knew that what people attribute to fortune, even in games, has its origin in the spiritual world; this is even more true with regard to the changing fortunes that befall a person during the course of their life.” Arcana Coelestia 6494

Despite the significance that some of us place on them, we don’t claim that football games have any real spiritual value other than as an entertainment, and also as something from which we can draw moral lessons. One of these is about the reality of luck in our lives:

“Since Divine providence is active in the least particulars of such unimportant and trivial affairs, how then not in the least particulars of affairs not unimportant or trivial – affairs that are matters of peace and war in the world, or of salvation and life in heaven?” Divine Providence 212

Games are usually designed so that the results depend on many factors that increase the uncertainty of the outcome. This gives everyone a chance, even when the opposing team seems superior. Luck, therefore, plays a significant role, just as it does in our lives.

It is this uncertainty, and the suspense that it creates, that draws people to popular games, as well as to other aspects of life where outcomes are uncertain and significant–from politics, to weather, to the changing fortunes of individuals, countries, and causes, whether in real life or in fiction.

People have an insatiable appetite for suspense and surprise. We have a great interest in situations where the outcome is uncertain, and an even greater interest in situations where the outcome is not the expected one but is surprising. These situations challenge people’s beliefs in ways that often result in changes to those beliefs. In the case of a football game, the beliefs are about the worth and skills of the team. In the case of many life situations, it is about the value and goodness of fundamental spiritual qualities.

Luck plays a role in all of this, just as it does in games. But in the end, spiritual outcomes depend solely on the Lord’s guiding love and wisdom, and their free reception on the part of each individual.

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