Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence.
-from the collect for Epiphany
Paul once wrote that we walk by faith and not by sight. What else could explain that travelers from the far east followed a star many, many miles across the desert and through acres of foreign terrain in order to find - they thought - some kind of king - even though they really weren't sure what or who they would find. What else could explain their acceptance that they had actually found what they were looking for when the star led them to a humble dwelling and a little toddler and not to a palace and and a grown-up king? These things do not make all that much sense, really. Those wise travelers were not following any kind of GPS device or map - they were just looking at the stars and going wherever they were led. They were following their hearts. They were walking by faith and not by sight.
We may not set out across the desert to lands unknown, but we can still walk by faith every day. I find that it is on the days that I have the best laid plans and a to-do list a mile long that I am furthest from God. Those are the days I am stubbornly walking by sight - with my eyes firmly on my own agenda. On such days I am likely to completely miss the shining stars that God puts right into my line of sight. I might view unexpected visitors or people who want to talk as distractions or interruptions instead of as opportunities to connect with some fellow travelers. Letting go of my own expectations for a day and allowing the Spirit to flow through me and guide me is a powerful way to pray - and to stay centered in God's peace. It is a challenging practice to trust that God will bring our attention to the next right thing to do in the moment, and to trust that we do not have to micro-manage our own day from beginning to end.
It's helpful to remember that you really never know what you're going to get when you wake up each new day. We may assume we're going to steer the day ahead of us, but many days are full of surprises - some welcome, some not. Rarely does everything flow just the way we'd planned. And if we're too wedded to our own expectations, we'll find ourselves fighting with the day instead of going with its flow. A wise traveler receives all the gifts and challenges a day presents and adjusts to God's course instead of stubbornly struggling to stick with her own course against strong headwinds or adverse currents.
Does this mean that keeping to-do lists or a calendar is useless? Or that we do not need to rise to challenges? Not at all. We need to prioritize and keep our commitments in this life. But sometimes those priorities and commitments are expressed or carried out in a different way or a different time frame than we'd expected. I find I'm much more peaceful in life when I keep my eyes, ears and heart open to the Spirit instead of keeping my eyes on my own prizes and desired outcomes.
It is now 2017 - and who knows what this year will bring? Chances are many things you would never expect will come your way. I invite us all to enter into this new year like wise travelers, remaining open for unexpected twinkling stars or other streaks of light crossing our paths. If we can walk by faith and not just by sight, we will discover the richness that comes with being led, through faith, into God's presence each day.
We'll be using the readings for Epiphany this Sunday, and they can be found HERE