EDITORIAL: Journeying to the light

By NEMS Daily Journal

In churches that follow the traditional Christian calendar, this is the season of Epiphany. It is a time when Christ’s role as a “light to enlighten the nations” is emphasized, when his revelation to the Gentiles is celebrated.
That’s what the Epiphany story of the three Magi, or wise men, is about – the recognition by the non-Jewish world of the Messiah, born as a Jew but destined to be the savior of all humanity. They were guided by a bright star, and it revealed to them the light of the world.
For the Christian, however, “little epiphanies” are the food of the life of faith. These are the times when we can see God at work in our lives or in the wider world, often in retrospect. They are the moments when, as the Christian writer Frederick Buechner says, we move from “believing in God” to “believing God.”
“Believing in God is an intellectual position,” Buechner wrote. “It need have no more effect on your life than believing in Freud’s method of interpreting dreams or the theory that Sir Francis Bacon wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet.’
“Believing God is something else again. It is less a position than a journey, less a realization than a relationship. It doesn’t leave you cold like believing the world is round. It stirs your blood like believing the world is a miracle. It affects who you are and what you do with your life like believing your house is on fire or somebody loves you.
“We believe in God when for one reason or another we choose to do so. We believe God when somehow we run into God in a way that by and large leaves us no choice to do otherwise.”
Most believers have had those types of epiphanies to which Buechner refers.
They may not be dramatic; they may be as simple as recognizing that God’s hand was at work in a word spoken that helped mend a strained relationship, or in a decision at home or school or work that turned out for the best, or in a door opened or in a new glimmer of understanding or insight about a situation that has perplexed us. The epiphanies may also come when things aren’t going well or haven’t worked out, but we realize nevertheless that that God was there with us in the midst of hardship or disappointment.
When we’ve experienced such revelation – when the light has gone off in our hearts and minds – we not only can intellectually assent to the existence of God, we can believe that God is present and active in our lives.
That’s when we move, once again, from believing in God to believing God.
When we believe God, we are able to trust that our lives have a purpose and that we are uniquely created to fulfill that purpose. That trust is not in an idea, but in a relationship, and the focus of our life’s journey becomes discerning what that purpose is, from day to day, week to week, and year to year, and what it requires of us in every aspect of our lives.
Our epiphanies don’t stop. There may be periods when the star dims, but for the faithful, it will eventually reappear, leading us into fresh recognition of God’s presence, renewing us for the journey to the light.