On Epiphany

Today is Epiphany.  For those of you who, like me, did not grow up in a liturgical church tradition, Epiphany is the celebration of the revelation of Christ, God incarnate, to mankind.  Depending on what traditions you observe, this day commemorates the visit of the magi, Christ’s baptism in the Jordan, or his first miracle at the wedding in Cana.   Regardless, today is the day the church begins to shift its focus from the cradle towards the cross.

The word “epiphany” literally means “to make manifest.”  When I think of moments of epiphany, I think of sudden understanding, of everything falling into place.  But the epiphany is not truly the moment of solving a problem.  Rather, it is the moment of realizing that the solution is at hand.  It is the moment when the path towards the end finally becomes clear.

In my life, I have had several moments of epiphany.  I remember the first time I felt the call of God on my life.  I remember when the focus of that calling shifted towards public health.  I remember realizing that I didn’t want to go to medical school at all.  These were all distinct moments in which I walked around a bend in the road, and suddenly, I could see a few steps farther.

Sometimes, though, I think that moments of epiphany are less clear.  Five years and one week ago, I stood in a book store in Tempi, Arizona, and idly picked up Shane Claiborne’s book Irresistible Revolution.  I honestly didn’t even want to be there.  I was in Tempi with my college marching band preparing for our bowl game.  I wasn’t particularly close to anyone in the band, which is why I was alone in a bookstore in the first place.  By the end of the evening, however, I knew that I had picked up something important.  God had arranged for me to stumble upon that particular book at that particular time.  Irresistible Revolution was the most challenging, convicting, confusing book I had ever read.  I had never heard anyone talk about following Christ like Shane did.  At the same time, though, something in my spirit responded to the book with, “Yes!  This is it!  This is what’s been missing this whole time!”  Even though that moment happened so long ago, the period of questioning and searching that I’m experiencing right now is a continuation of what started there.

Moments of epiphany may be unmistakable (like an enormous star or a voice from heaven or water that turns into wine), or they may sneak up on us (like picking up a book or talking to an old friend).  But no matter how obvious or subtle, we must remember that the epiphany is not the end.  It is only truly the beginning.  The epiphany is the opening of a door, the first step of a journey.  It is God leading us into something new.

What will God reveal to you this year, and where will it take you?

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