I’m the world’s worst when it comes to directions. I get lost easily and panic when I find myself in unfamiliar surroundings. Today is Epiphany, so it’s fitting that God would bid me to head home in a different direction. He knows how hard it is for me to change direction, and we both know it’s because I let fear get the best of me. Matthew 2 has been in my path for the past few weeks, but it took on new meaning yesterday.
“On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” (NRSV)
2015 was filled with changes in direction that left me reeling and feeling lost. The problem, as always, was in trying to find my way instead of yielding to God’s. The Magi traveled a great distance to see the Messiah; whether they were from Prussia or some other exotic location, their journey was a long and difficult one filled with the unfamiliar.
When God warned them not to go back to Herod, they willingly changed direction. I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to do what they did. They knew the importance of pleasing the ruler of the region, but they listened to God and ignored Herod. It was customary to bring gifts and show respect for kings when traveling to or through their kingdoms, so they were doing much more than changing their travel plans. They risked insulting the reigning king because they knew Christ was a new kind of king. Some folks are insulted when you change direction, and that has been the most difficult lesson of late. I worry far too much about what others think, and that gets in God’s way. Following God may mean disappointing others, and that’s more uncomfortable than heading down an unknown road.
If the Wise Men had ignored God’s warning and done what was expected of them, God would have found another way to protect His Son. He didn’t need them, and He doesn’t need me to carry out His plans. He lets me participate so I’ll learn and grow nearer to Him. I don’t always listen, so I miss important lessons. I prefer the safety of the familiar, but God’s lesson this week has been that safety is only an illusion. The safest road is the one He is on even though it is seldom the most familiar. Faith is trusting God even when others insist they know what I should do. Epiphany is seeing the light of Christ’s precious love and having the courage to follow it in faith.