In mathematics, as in other disciplines, there is something known as the “eureka experience.” You eyeball a problem and though at first its answer escapes you, if you stay with it long enough, the solution eventually comes.
The word “eureka” has Greek origins, and literally means, “I found it!” But most of us know it from the gold rush days in the American West, when miners seeking their fortune would, upon striking the mother lode, shout for joy, exclaiming, “Eureka! Eureka! I found it! I found it!”
Sometimes you stumble across something that you know holds such value that you simply cannot contain your glee.
We’re, of course, coming up on a “holiday weekend” when many will take advantage of the free Monday to get away from the regular grind. October 14 is Columbus Day (or Indigenous Peoples Day, as some calendars list it). The day originated as a commemoration of the Age of Discovery that the Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus, ushered in when he “sailed across the ocean blue in 1492.” Talk about one of history’s most famous fortuitous acts, Columbus had started his initial expedition to locate a shortcut to Asia and its lucrative treasures of gold and spice. Instead, he stumbled across the West Indies, and the rest, as they say is history. While Columbus did not technically discover America, he did initiate a spate of expeditions that led other explorers to come our way, all of them motivated by the three “g’s” – gold, glory, and the Gospel.
I grew up fascinated by stories of those explorers, both the Italian, Spanish, French, and English explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries as well as the Gold Rush pioneers of the 19th century. I marveled at their daring and how they were driven to experience that which no one else had known before. Part of my fascination was no doubt due to my own provincialism. I like to stick pretty close to home and always have. But part of it was also my longing for a “eureka experience” in my own life.
Somewhere I came across a quote by the earlier twentieth century French novelist, Marcel Proust, famous for his seven-volume novel In Search of Lost Time. Considered one of the supreme accomplishments in modern fiction, Proust offered “would be” explorers this helpful advice: “The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” In other words, you may not even have to leave your own backyard to have an “eureka experience.” It actually comes from your ability to see old landscapes in fresh ways. The “regular grind” may contain more treasure than we ever imagined.
Perhaps the greatest discovery in the Bible is found (pun intended) in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The story of the young man who squandered his inheritance on “riotous living” in the faraway land eventually “came to his senses” when he realized how good he had it back home and decided to turn back, hopeful only of being taken in as one of his father’s hired servants. What he was not counting on was the lavish (i.e., prodigal) love of his father who had been waiting diligently on his son’s return and ran to embrace him when he saw him coming from “a long way off.” Jubilantly, the father cried out to his servants to make ready for a feast and a grand celebration, “for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found” (Luke 15:11-24).
Sometimes you stumble across grace and it washes all over you when you least expect it. Ask the California prospector. Ask the intrepid explorer. Ask the prodigal son. Ask countless other souls that only had the vision to see what seemed to have escaped everyone else.
Just remember as you go into this holiday weekend that God’s grace is all around us, and when you manage to stumble upon it, you have come upon pure gold. When that day happens for you, what a day of discovery that will truly be!
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).