One lives by fate, luck, and chance or by the simple creed, "God is in control." I was walking through the pages of Genesis yesterday when I saw this afresh. The people of God had an absolute certainty that God was large and in charge:
- Isaac blessed Jacob with the words, "God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you. Genesis 28:3
- The writer of Genesis (presumably Moses) writes, "When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb." Genesis 29:31
- Jacob, in a heated conversation with Rachel about her inability to have a child exclaims, "Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb." Genesis 30:2
- When Rachel finally becomes pregnant and gives birth the Genesis narrator tells us, "Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb." Genesis 30:22
- Rachel recognizes this blessing of children as from the hand of God, "God has taken away my reproach." Genesis 30:23
- Jacob attributes Laban's business success to God, "and the LORD has blessed you wherever I turned." Genesis 30:30
- When Jacob flees from Laban he reasons with Rachel that despite Laban's poor treatment of him, "the God of my father has been with me," and "God did not permit him to harm me," and "God has shown me favor." Genesis 31:5, 7, 9
- Jacob recognized the wealth he himself gained as from God. Genesis 31:16
- Jacob attributes the protection of his business assets to God, "If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the fear of Isaac, had not been on my side."
- Jacob is confident the reason he came through his trying time was, "God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands." Genesis 31:42
As I listened to Jacob and his kin trace their good fortune to the providential loving hand of God, I can't help but reflect on the attributions of Jack Valenti. Valenti led a fascinating life as a decorated WWII pilot, then as Special Assistant President to Lyndon B. Johnson, and still later as the President of the Motion Picture Association of America. You will find his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
I read Valenti's memoir last week. This Time, This Place: My Life in War, the White House, and Hollywood is a riveting account of a fascinating life. I thoroughly enjoyed it and gleaned life and leadership lessons in page after page. That said, Valenti's perspective on life and who guides it was noticeably different from what I read in Genesis:
- This memoir is "about several careers rounded by tasks and obligations that so many others could have handled if fate had intervened in their lives as it did in mine."
- "On a breezy September day in 1946, I arrived in Boston and found my way by taxi to Harvard Business School. I still couldn't believe my good luck as I carried my bags to Gallatin Hall."
- "Whenever I thought about Humble Oil in the long years that followed, I always mused to myself, Jack, you were one lucky bastard to have had your first real job at Humble Oil. Then chance entered my life once again . . . .
These two accounts represent two ways of viewing life. I will either live as one driven by the capricious winds of fate, luck, and chance or as one whose journey is directed by the hand of a loving Father who knows me so intimately, cares for me so completely, and guides me so lovingly that the best summation of that care is:
Life is unpredictable, at least from my vantage point. The question is whether the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit conspire for my good and God's glory or the unholy trinity of fate, luck, and chance play me like a deck of cards, a game of jacks, or a roll of the dice.
The Holy Trinity brings peace in pain, confidence in catastrophe, and a certain awareness of where to point when things go well. The unholy trinity leaves me "thanking my lucky stars" or cursing the night.
The Holy Trinity helps me say with confidence, "God Almighty bless you." The unholy trinity leaves me with a weak, "Take luck!"
Keep your luck. I'll rest in God who has numbered every last hair on my head.
- "About several careers . . ." from This Time, This Place: My Life in War, the White House, and Hollywood by Jack Valenti. New York: Harmony Books. 2007. Page xi
- "On a breezy September day . . . " from This Time, This Place, page 139.
- "Then chance entered my life once again . . ." from This Time, This Place, page 101.