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Monday Over Coffee: Windfall

Need a Word of Encouragement?

Windfall

The word windfall first appeared in the fifteenth century. It referred to fruit the wind blew from the trees which then became free for anyone who happened along to pick it up. Likewise, if a tree fell in the forest, it became lumber available for anyone strolling about to retrieve for their own use. While the word has always had a economic gloss to it, it’s now mainly used in a financial context denoting unexpected profits from a lucky stock purchase or the like.

We hear, from time to time, the phrase “there but for the grace of God go I.” It always rings true to me, but — I’m a little ashamed to confess — in a pretty prescribed way. When I consider matters such as good health, for example, the phrase always seems to fit. While we have some say over our overall physical condition, it’s far from something we have unfettered control over. The past year has certainly made this abundantly clear.

That said, with regard to much of my life, this phrase about “grace and going” hasn’t been one I’ve taken to heart as I should. In too many cases where I should have recognized I had little or nothing to do with something that has turned out well, I’ve expressed only a generic sort of gratitude to God. Then I proceeded to either consciously or subconsciously credit myself as having an outsized part in the way the good outcome came about. Hopefully you’re not like me, but, as human beings, we do tend to congratulate ourselves on our own efforts and often overlook the true derivation of our gains. If we scratch the surface just a little, we begin to see more clearly most of the good things that arise in our lives are not only unmerited but, in a way that’s actually a little distressing, unalloyed windfall. 

Think about it. No one has control over when and where they’re born, their DNA, their parents, their lineage, or the environment they grow up in. We can go further to argue about how much we’re responsible for things like our temperament, our work ethic, and even the full extent of our free will, as well. Finally, without denying the concept of agency, there are many accidents, momentary failures, betrayals, breaches, and inexplicable glitches in life that can take a person into a serious detour through little or no fault of their own. Good people’s lives can be so easily sidetracked while others somehow generally stay on track such that they continue to prosper or at least get along decently. 

God’s grace and blessing are a part of how our lives unfold, and obedience to God’s guidance enhances the probability of favorable outcomes. But this only goes so far. Placing too much emphasis on how God showers blessings on the good and withholds them from the bad quickly devolves into the sort of prosperity Gospel of which we’re rightfully skeptical. Jesus Himself said the sun rises on the evil and the good, just as rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous. On the other hand, if we lean too far into notions of luck, fate, destiny, and just plain random distribution, we then seem to leave some of the most important tenets of our faith behind, not to mention the concept of free will.

Honestly, I don’t know how to get to the bottom of all of it. As we begin this new year, perhaps the most reasonable thing we can do with such thoughts is to double down on gratitude for the pure windfall of our lives, and let it lead us toward a renewal of two important Christ-like characteristics in our day to day operations — two things which we can probably never have enough of: humility and grace.

Humility should bloom from the realization that we have so little to claim with regard to any of our own accomplishments, whatever they may be. Likewise, green shoots of new grace should emerge as we embrace the truth of this perspective and the view that there are real limits to agency — ours and that of others.

As we begin a new year, consider tethering how you perceive your life more closely around this idea of being a beneficiary of pure windfall. The more this notion is internalized, the more natural it is to offer the fruits of our education, the timber of a good work ethic, the resultant windfall of our resources, and the blessings of a life in this particular place and time back to our Creator to work through us anew. 

God — 

Perhaps that’s it. Perhaps that’s everything. Help me to see and know it is all windfall — windfall all the way down. And then to act accordingly.

Amen.

 —Greg Funderburk


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