I remember in my late twenties in a literature class hearing about an author my same age who had already written a number of books and was considered of great literary fame. I remember the thought passing through my mind, “Where have I been?”
Maybe I felt like I was going nowhere fast. The complexities that enter into how we perceive our lives are not easy to untangle. Now in my fifties, I look back at the years that are folded up now and set to rest, and wonder still what I have attained. Once I participated in an ice-breaker in a meeting of my sisters in Rome, and we had to state one word that described ourselves. I immediately put down the word, “Search.” I’m always on a search. And I realize now that I have subtly have considered this to be a negative thing. If I’m searching, I haven’t found something. I’m not settled. Not finished. Maybe I’ll never be finished looking for that something I wish I could find.
The Magi whom we contemplate today had spent a good bit of their life-span searching the skies for a star they knew would one day appear. Their search indicated that no other star was sufficient to move them, to transform them, to uproot them, to cause them to bow down in worship. They sought because they had not found. And that was a good thing. They knew that everything they had as yet encountered was good, but not great, not THE THING that was to mark their lives forever. And so they continued searching.
The star they followed led the three on another search. First they thought it would lead to a political kingdom, then to a religious elite, but ended up surprisingly in a poor hut where they laid their precious gifts before a Babe and his teenage mother. There as they discovered the King and God whom they recognized they had been searching for all their life, they also discovered themselves. Julian Carron, president of Communion and Liberation, wrote in his book Disarming Beauty, “A person rediscovers himself in a living encounter…. It is in an encounter that I become aware of myself…. The ‘I’ awakens from its imprisonment in its original womb, awakens from its tomb, from its sepulcher, from its closed situation of origin and–as it were–‘resurrects,’ becomes aware of itself, precisely in an encounter. The result of an encounter is that the sense of the person is kindled. It is as if the person were being born… This encounter enables us to discover the mystery of our ‘I.’ ‘He was himself, but even more himself.'” (page 79f.).
How do we experience this encounter today? An encounter that shifts the foundation of our personality and consciousness so that we become “even more of ourself”?
Our searching into our middle years has led us through many encounters, careers, hobbies, places of residence, relationships…. Our restlessness, we finally realize, is finally settled into quiet restfulness when we encounter Jesus. I could list a number of places where we could encounter Jesus today…all of which you would know. The point the story of the Magi makes, however, is to be ready for the unexpected places where God will encounter us.
Encounter happens, however, when we’re ready for a relational experience. There are times in all of our lives when relational openness and intensity grows a little dim. This is a simple contemplation you might make to strengthen your readiness to encounter the divine in your life:
- Remember a moment in your past that brought you great joy. Talk to God about how much you appreciate what happened. Express to him gratitude.
- Ask Jesus to tell you what he wants you to know about that experience.
- Ask Jesus to show you where he is in your life right now, to make you aware of his presence.
- Bow down beside the Magi and worship.
Mid-life is a great time to think about what you’ve been searching for and if you’ve found it. Sometimes we have found it, but don’t know how to rest in it, to stop searching and instead relish it and delight in it as it transforms us. It could be we haven’t found what we’ve been looking for and a contemplation such as the one above could be the Star that you’ve been waiting for to lead you to an encounter that will totally satisfy you.
In either case, on this Epiphany day, may you follow his Star wherever it leads!