“I get it.” Jennifer Place
Well, as usual for me, this post has religious and non-religious themes, just like the word. Webster defines Epiphany as: 1) a Christian festival held on January 6 in honor of the coming of the three kings to the infant Jesus Christ;and 2) a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way.
Epiphany first began to interest me when I learned the due date of our first child was January 6th. As I told people about that, someone mentioned that it was the feast of the Three Kings. I had never paid much attention to this date and don’t remember knowing much about it. I ended up doing more than 17 hours of labor on the 6th, I do remember that! (Our son held out until the 7th, born at 2:08 a.m. Oh, and this stubborn insistence on doing things on his own time schedule and in his own way was perhaps set by how he entered the world. LOL!)
Thus, Epiphany caught my attention! I learned the Twelve Days of Christmas we sing about, so special in medieval times, end on January 6th. The Yule Log lit on Christmas Eve was intended to burn until then, when presents were exchanged in recognition of the gifts of the Magi. The Epiphany feast, hosted by the comical Lord of Misrule, brought an end to the Christmas Festival.
Of course, for the other definition, I also experienced “I get it” moments, those instantaneous life-shifting ah-has that crystallize awareness, change outlook, and set us on new paths. Epiphanies are usually personal, I learned, profound to the one who experiences them.”Epiphanies,” Father Thomas Rosica tells us, “…tend to be private events… Trying to share the details with another is fraught with complications. The words are never quite right, and even the most sympathetic listener cannot bridge the gap between the description and what it was like being there.” It’s hard to experience someone else’s Wow!
The roots of the word Epiphany are: to come forth or, to be revealed. The baby was revealed to the Magi, astronomer kings, but the story is not just “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” These tired travelers found a surprise at the end of their journey. Seeking a king, they followed the star not to a palace but to a stable, not to a powerful man but to a poor baby. Imagine the surprise and the power of their shared Epiphany! All three of them not only recognized Him in that moment as the one they sought, but also, instantly knew how much more than a mere King he was.
I think most of my best epiphanies have been like that, totally what I anticipated and yet, completely unexpected, and bringing much more than I dared to hope for. (Like the revelation about marrying Doug, where I, the Catholic granddaughter of immigrants and this aspiring Presbyterian minister and WASP, while not seen as a match by others, were perfect together.)
For me, there have been other smaller moments of clarification of ideas already rolling around in my head; times where I rediscovered old solutions that solved new problems; and pivotal moments of change, gigantic leaps of thought, fundamental shifts in perspective or awareness.
Either way, a new direction for my life has often come with them. The challenge for me, as I suspect it may have been for the Magi, was to recognize in the surprise what was still, somehow, the expected.
Maybe an example? Once our daughter went to school I wanted to go back to work. I had taught high school, but during my time at home different ideas for my life began to filter into my thought. I had even sent for information on the MSW program at Syracuse University. Then, Gretchen went to Kindergarten, and I started teaching again. Teaching had been my way to make a difference, so when the best friend of one of my students died in a fire and he began missing school, I tried to get him counseling. When I kept advocating for help for him, I was told my job was to just “teach English.” So, I began to pray that I could find a new job that would let me do more.
It was that classic “be careful what you pray for moment.” I was blessed by a chance to talk to Bobbie Schofield, the Executive Director of the (very large) Syracuse Salvation Army. She saw my desire for helping others and offered to build a position for me as Director of a School Aged Daycare. It would draw on my teaching background and yet let me learn social work by helping the families in the program. And, the agency could give me remitted tuition. Ideal, right?
Waiting for the catch? It paid far less than I was making as a teacher, and, as a teacher, when my children weren’t in school I wasn’t either. This position would mean more time away from my family for less money. Could that be my answer to prayer? It took a few days and a lot more prayer to get to the epiphany. Yes, it was.
Following the star to that job turned into my first step forward. I studied family therapy and got my MSW while running Emergency Shelter Services, got to learn social work under the guidance of Bobbie and her great staff, and discovered gifts for management and program development as Family Services Director. Following this calling from God, I think I walked in the path of The Kings. They so easily could have discounted the star that shone on a manger instead of a throne. They could have decided there was no King, gone home, and missed the Christ. It would have been perfectly logical, and yet, made no sense….but they had an Epiphany, and they saw clearly in the very moment they looked at Him! It took me a little longer, but thankfully, I got there!
So, how open are you, am I, to the ongoing epiphanies in our lives? How ready for new revelations, that take us to unexpected ends, nonsensical but wise directions? 2016 holds unknown choices. For me and for you, I pray for a year filled with epiphanies, the big awakenings and the smaller moments, the vision to see the path, and the courage to embrace it. I know from my past that when I do wonderful things come forth.
Well, then, are you ready? Surprise, here comes an epiphany…oh, wait you already knew, you’ve been following the star.