"Gloom, despair, and agony on me…If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all…Gloom, despair, and agony on me—oooh!” I knew all of the Hee Haw songs and would throw my head back and groan along with the sorrowful group of singing hillbillies holding their moonshine jugs, much to the delight of my Pap, who was my appreciative and captive audience. This month the idea of luck gets a front row seat, with the luck-of-the-Irish, pots of gold at the end of rainbows, and all things St. Patrick’s Day.
I’ve noticed country folks seldom attribute things to simple luck. We have several legitimate sayings and beliefs connected with weather and planting, but it’s often more about needing personal fortitude and effort to make things happen, under the hand of a sovereign God. Even though I know this, I still find myself knocking on the nearest piece of wood without thinking. And I avoid stepping on cracks because I love my mother…And while I’ve never hung a horseshoe over my door, my loved ones have. I try not to walk under ladders. If a black cat crosses my path I should really “X” it out, but let it go if I’m walking with someone I want to impress. When I see a penny heads up, I put it in my pocket. (Some say it’s better to put it in your shoe). And if I give a knife for a gift, I attach a penny with it so the receiver can give the penny back, technically buying the knife, which then will NOT sever our friendship. Growing up in the 80’s, I had a lucky rabbit's foot key chain and although I have no recollection of it, my sister says we occasionally got out of bed the first day of each month, gave ourselves rabbit ears and hopped around three times repeating the word “rabbit”. If I break a mirror, I grimace and pretend it didn’t happen. Eons ago someone gave me a hearth cricket and after all these years, it’s still there (with a broken leg and one antenna). If I knock over the salt shaker, I quickly shake a few shakes over my shoulder, which incidentally doesn’t work well in a crowded restaurant. Why do I do these things???
The origin of good luck/bad luck ideas is interesting and ancient yet often pagan. Maybe this is what Paul warns about in 1 Timothy 4:7 “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales, rather, train yourself to be godly.” Why do some God-fearing, rationale people still abide by these superstitions? Sometimes they connect us to our ancestors. For example, it’s a Cowger tradition that my dad goes out on the porch as soon as he awakens every New Year ’s Day and brings something into the house (bucket of coal or firewood) to ensure he will be bringing something in all year. The practice of wishing someone “Good luck” shows you care, although a “Godspeed” or “be blessed” would prove more powerful. Lastly, I’ve seen people, especially athletes, execute good luck routines to give a boost of confidence. My daughter always placed the taped handle in her right hand each time her team began their performance.
Common sense will tell us that “good luck” is more about a positive attitude than probability. Success is being relaxed, confident, and cheerful, seeking opportunities, and most importantly trusting in a sovereign God. Goodbye gloom, despair, and agony on me—I have a new song! “O sing unto the lord a new song; for he hath done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm hath gotten him the victory.” (Psalm 98:1) We have more than luck when we remember Proverbs 16: 33 “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Remember, with Jesus, odds are always in our favor.
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Janet Cowger- Fliegel