Here’s a picture from my favorite Epiphany, ten-ish years ago:
Obviously the Feast of Epiphany has held a special place in my heart since.
But my appreciation of epiphany goes beyond sentimentality. I firmly believe that God speaks to us, revealing little bits of truth, little bits of Himself, throughout life. It’s our job to keep our eyes and ears open.
Let’s be honest, though. Amidst the arguing among my kids and the endless clatter of dishes to be washed and laundry to be folded, sometimes that voice is hard to hear.
For me it’s easiest to keep my ears open at Mass. Maybe it’s because at Mass the words of God are actual words, coming at me in the form of the readings or the homily. Like a game of divine telephone, I go to Mass, knowing God has a message for me.
Unfortunately attending Mass doesn’t guarantee that I’ll come away with a warm fuzzy feeling, heart filled with the knowledge that God sent me a personal love letter.
Sometimes that voice is silent. Sometimes the toddler gets screamy, and the four-year-old gets antsy, and I’m distracted by the task of appeasement or evacuation. Sometimes that voice comes through loud and clear, even in the company of the loud and busy.
During Advent this year our family of six was in between homes, staying with friends and family as we looked forward to the closing date on our new house. It wasn’t the greatest trial we’ve faced as a family, but it was uncomfortable.
From this uncomfortableness came an epiphany.
The priest at the church we were visiting one Sunday reminded us that our lives are like books. Some chapters are great—we want them to last forever. Others are terribly painful. Scary. Suspenseful. We can’t wait for them to be over.
Either way, they are part of our story. Either way, they are part of the plan for our personal salvation.
The context for this discussion was Mary’s life, considering the uncertainty, peril, and suffering in her story. Mary faced some pretty awful conditions, but there was certainty in her uncertainty. Nine months pregnant on the back of a donkey, she trusted God’s plan. She trusted in the long-range plan as well as the “guess I’m riding on this donkey today” plan. That’s epic trust.
One of the reasons I started blogging was to “find joy in the dust piles of life.” Choosing happiness in the now is a daily goal for me. Even so, this homily was an epiphany.
How much I want to flip forward a few pages during every tough chapter of life! How I mark my life hoping to get over little bumps like potty training and big bumps like extended family conflicts. How often do I count the days until this or that trial is ironed out, rather than trusting in God’s plan for this chapter. If only I can endure, then I can get on with my vocation.
For better or worse, every chapter of the story is part of our journey to salvation. For whatever reason, those dull or irritating or seemingly impossible chapters help move us toward that ultimate end.
It’s not a matter of enduring until the happy stuff comes. It’s a matter of embracing the imperfection, the pain, the surprises of now. Now is God’s plan for me.
Understanding this epiphany is one thing; living it is another matter. The first step is recognizing that the unexpected and unpleasant parts of life somehow move my story forward. For some reason it’s important that I not skip over them to the more enjoyable parts.
Mary didn’t skip over that trip to Egypt. She didn’t opt out of standing under the cross. She trusted in the Author of her story.
Our wedding picture is a reminder of all the lovely chapters my life has had so far. Those two young kids had no idea the struggles and joys that they would face in ten years of marriage. The weight of it all would have been crushing, so their ignorance is a good thing. In the end, that’s why life moves on line by line, building trust in the Author of our story, too.
I don’t know how the latest round of worries and issues my family currently faces will resolve. Somehow the book of my life is better for them, and one day I hope for the opportunity to discuss the finer plot points with the Author.