Reflecting on That Thing We Call “Luck”

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

Just like September 11, 2001 or the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated (November 22, 1963), most of us probably have a good idea of what we were doing on October 3, 1995. The exact date may not initially ring a bell, but most of us probably remember where we were when we heard the following announcement:

“…In the matter of People of the State of California versus Orenthal James Simpson, case number BA097211. We, the jury, in the above-entitled action, find the Defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty of the crime of murder in violation of penal code section 187(A)…”

 I was at work, my first real job fresh out of college, and the director of our corporate communications department had turned on the bulbous television set that was nestled in the corner ceiling of her office while the rest of her team gathered around under it, each of us holding our breath as we listened with bated anticipation.

 After the verdict was read, I blinked my eyes reflexively in disbelief at the television screen. Surely I hadn’t heard correctly. I jerked my head towards my co-workers, but the stunned expressions on each of my co-workers faces, combined with the gasping, the shaking of heads in dismay, confirmed what I still couldn’t seem to fathom: OJ had actually somehow managed to get away with murder even though everyone (except those in denial of course) knew he did it.

For years later, any time OJ’s name came up, someone would invariably shake their head in disappointment and mumble the words we had all at one point thought: “He got away with it…I can’t believe he got away with it…”

 If any of us were asked what we thought of OJ and his ability to be acquitted despite the mountain of DNA evidence against him, our response would probably be:  “He is the luckiest (add your own noun or expletive) I’ve ever seen!”

Flashforward to the year 2008. And OJ has been accused of burglary and kidnapping…and sentenced to 33 years in prison, 9 years of which he has to serve before he could be considered for parole.

 Irony?  Perhaps.

 Justice?  Maybe for us…but certainly not for Nicole’s family or to Ron Goldman’s.

 If asked, “Is he still ‘lucky?’” Most of us would reply with a snicker, “Not anymore!” Some might add, “His luck finally ran out on him…” 

 Christians may argue that luck is just another word for what we call grace (unmerited favor) or even God’s mercy….or perhaps just a form of deferred punishment.  It’s easy to think of that definition in terms of most of our lives…but what about that unrepentant soul who has, at least on the surface, no interest in God or anything spiritual? And what about those people who despite all their cheating, lying, bad behavior, who somehow manage to escape God’s swift Hand of Judgment and not only manage to do well, but dangit, they prosper!

 It’s times like that when there seems to be no other word to describe a person or situation that we just can’t help but label them “lucky,” and it’s also then when I’m typically also a little green with envy as I look at my own life and wonder what I lack that I don’t seem to have the same good fortune.

Some people just seem to be born with luck…sometimes it seems they have an invisible magnet that attracts attention, success, and/or money.  It’s a quality that seems to help them prevail despite all odds and despite all their bad choices. Even in their downward spiral, they still manage to garner some weird sort of triumph.

 Case in point…Charlie Sheen.

Yeah. Exactly!

He’s all in the headlines, and you cannot watch one television station without his name coming up. Since he was in his 20s, Charlie’s behavior has been deemed extreme by even the most liberal in Hollywood and he has endured many shaking of heads in disapproval. Yet, despite it all, he somehow continually manages, time and time again, to land on his feet and not only do well, but dangit, prosper

 He’s the highest paid actor for a sitcom in which he, in my opinion, doesn’t even have to really act. I saw a recent episode of Two and a Half Men to see what all the fuss was about. The show featured his character as a playboy and in that episode, his character was sleeping with prostitutes and had a ménage a trios…all in one episode. I felt like I was watching a biography of his life on E!’s True Hollywood Story. So basically he was getting $2+ million an episode on Two and a Half Men for being himself…

Granted, in Charlie’s case, I am talking about “luck” in terms of money.  But he does seem “lucky” in that sense, especially in comparison to the rest of us who often spend up to 10 hours a day, working at a job that we’re half-hearted about, as we try to make ends meet. Somehow even in his manic/drug-induced/whatever-you-think-it-is state of mind, he has garnered so much attention for himself…he is talking and people are listening. In 24 hours of opening a twitter account, he managed to set a record amount of approximately 1 million followers.

Undoubtedly, Charlie has some serious problems (mental, emotional, and no doubt spiritual), but on the surface, he does seem to be…as he himself proclaims…WINNING!  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

But it’s not just the Charlies and OJs of the world that seem to have varying degrees of luck. We all have known or observed people, who, like them, seem to have the ever inexplicable qualities of “luck.”

For the rest of us who struggle daily in life and can’t help but wonder where our dose of luck is, I point you to the scriptures, where even thousands of years ago, people, too, struggled with how undeserving/evil/wicked people seemed to just prosper in the wake of their evil deeds:

Psalm 73

A psalm of Asaph.

1Surely God is good to Israel,

to those who are pure in heart.

2But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;

I had nearly lost my foothold.

3For I envied the arrogant

when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4They have no struggles;

their bodies are healthy and strong.a

5They are free from the burdens common to man;

they are not plagued by human ills.

6Therefore pride is their necklace;

they clothe themselves with violence.

7From their callous hearts comes iniquityb;

the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.

8They scoff, and speak with malice;

in their arrogance they threaten oppression.

9Their mouths lay claim to heaven,

and their tongues take possession of the earth.

10Therefore their people turn to them

and drink up waters in abundance.c

11They say, “How can God know?

Does the Most High have knowledge?”

12This is what the wicked are like—

always carefree, they increase in wealth.

13Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;

in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.

14All day long I have been plagued;

I have been punished every morning.

15If I had said, “I will speak thus,”

I would have betrayed your children.

16When I tried to understand all this,

it was oppressive to me

17till I entered the sanctuary of God;

then I understood their final destiny.

18Surely you place them on slippery ground;

you cast them down to ruin.

19How suddenly are they destroyed,

completely swept away by terrors!

20As a dream when one awakes,

so when you arise, O Lord,

you will despise them as fantasies.

21When my heart was grieved

and my spirit embittered,

22I was senseless and ignorant;

I was a brute beast before you.

23Yet I am always with you;

you hold me by my right hand.

24You guide me with your counsel,

and afterward you will take me into glory.

25Whom have I in heaven but you?

And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

26My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart

and my portion forever.

27Those who are far from you will perish;

you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

28But as for me, it is good to be near God.

I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;

I will tell of all your deeds.

Amongst all the insane coverage on Sheen, I saw an old clip from an interview with him almost 10 years ago. In it, he’s lucid and talking about how early success, fame, and money, although it was what he craved and what all Hollywood celebrities strive for, are ultimately what led to his addictions and bad behavior.

As I listened to the interview, I realized that I, too, was lucky, but just completely in the opposite way of Charlie.

I’m lucky to have had old fashion, overbearing, unhip, uncool parents who didn’t given into my every whim and expected nothing less from me than the best…

I’m lucky to have had to struggle and work hard for each one of my successes so I don’t take them for granted and waste them away as if they were my inherent right rather than the unmistakable sign of God’s goodness…

I’m lucky that I have a husband whom I occasionally want to strangle because he frustrates and challenges me, inevitably forcing me to become a better wife, mother, and person.

 And most of all, I’m lucky to have a God who hasn’t given me so much “luck” in life that I have to discover a life here on this earth or an eternity without knowing Him…

 So when the green-eyed monster rears its ugly head and you find yourself envying someone who is undeservedly “lucky,” remember, that maybe you’re not as lucky in the same exact way…but you are loved by a God who keeps you 100% dependent on Him…and in the end, maybe that’s what makes you truly “lucky” after all…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s