Are We There Yet?

In the next few days, the world will celebrate New Year’s Eve/Day–a flip of the calendar page more eagerly awaited this year than most–and the Church will celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany–the arrival of those mysterious Magi with their impractical gifts. Although they are always proximate, these two celebrations feel especially connected right now.

I’ve long been a fan of Jan Richardson: artist, minister, preacher, poet, and writer of blessings. One of my favorites is her Epiphany blessing, “For Those Who Have Far to Travel.” You can read it in its entirety at her Painted Prayerbook website, but here’s how it begins:

If you could see
the journey whole
you might never
undertake it;
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping
step by
single step.

If you could see the journey whole, you might never undertake it. Isn’t that the truth? Human beings are capable of astonishing endurance when something meaningful must be done–carrying and birthing babies, caring for dying loved ones, and doing all the demanding jobs we now deem essential–but perhaps it’s just as well that those endeavors don’t come with a crystal ball. On March 13, for example, what on earth would we have done if the text alerts had said “Okay, folks; pack it in for at least the next year”? Call it one of the mercies of the road: that we see it only by stages . . .

What’s going to happen in 2021? We are filled with questions, most of which begin with the word “when.” The past nine months have made us wary of plan-making, yet still we wonder about everything from the return of in-person instruction and the simple joys of dinner in someone else’s home to summer weddings and foreign travel. What is going to happen?!?

Here’s the truth: we’ve never known. Any certainty we may have felt in years past about what the future held was always, at best, a lucky guess. Each new day has always been a swing around a blind corner; these long months of pandemic simply have helped us grasp that more clearly.

My prayer for you in 2021, therefore, is that you may take each day as it comes, “step by single step.” Whatever you encounter, may you find God there. And may that finding transform you, inspiring you to follow the footsteps of the Magi and discover a new way home.

Blessed New Year and Happy Epiphany,

P.S. Next week, I’ll be offering my New Year’s retreat, Take Nothing for the Journey? Packing for the Year Ahead, on Tuesday (January 5th) from 9:30 – 11:30 Eastern and on Thursday (January 7th) from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Here’s a little preview video–obviously recorded in warmer weather–that perhaps doesn’t sufficiently explain that I’m using “packing” as a metaphor, but gives you a fun taste of where we’re going nonetheless.