In this, the national week of goal setting and New Year’s resolutions, when purpose gurus, guides and coaches call to us from every corner, selling the latest and greatest methods for how to get what we want and live a meaningful life; I am drawn to the stillness of the Magi and the Christ child. To that moment in time when the wisdom keepers of the ages brought their most precious gifts to lay at the feet of the One who would lead the world beyond purpose and meaning into love. I am drawn to Epiphany.
The word itself is known for being a moment in which we have a sudden insight that re-orients our lives. It is also the time when we make space in the new year for the Magi’s visit to the Christ child, those wise people who read the heavens for signs and wonders and interpreted the wisdom they found. It’s a little odd for me as this is the first Sunday in a decade that I am not preparing a sermon. Last Sunday was my last official day in my appointment to a United Methodist church in Nashville, I’ve moved to Chattanooga and am beginning the next phase in my ministry and spiritual journey. Just like the Magi journeying to an unknown place to meet a mysterious, new life being born into the world, I am guided by a lot of unanswered questions. Mystery and wonder are at the heart of 2018, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
I’m re-reading Parker Palmer’s beautiful book: “Let Your Life Speak.” In which he says: “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you.” He is in line with one of my favorite Sufi poets from the 13th Century, Rumi, who said, “let the beauty you love be what you do.”
But this is not easy. These are the kinds of sayings that draw us into epiphany, however, they are so ambiguous that they often crash and die in a culture such as ours. It feels as if being drawn into Epiphany is very often more of a myth than reality. We live out the reality of our days in a “get it done” culture. It seems like a fantasy to do something as strange as listening to your heart speak.
The goal-making, purpose driven, intention setting business is one of the most profitable industries in our culture, it is much louder than Epiphany. This time of year, especially, we are all scrambling to get our intentions in line with something that will finally make our lives work and move us further in the direction of where we truly want to go. The heart, with its mushy, ambiguous feeling center doesn’t seem too promising as far as the material things we want to achieve. But when it comes to finding purpose, true purpose from an authentic place, I’m afraid we’re stuck with having to navigate the ambiguous territory of the heart. Like the Magi, forsaking knowledge, reason and even Herod’s instructions to follow an odd, dancing light on the horizon.
So, before I sit down to write my goals for the year, I’m spending some time meditating on that moment when the wisdom keepers of the ages brought their most precious gifts to lay at the feet of the One who would lead the world beyond purpose and meaning into love. My truest purpose is somehow linked to the spirit of that encounter.
Because the past decade of serving some of the most traumatized, abandoned people in our culture has taught me that there is something a little deeper in all of us that lives just beneath the craving for purpose and meaning –this is the cry for love. Something born in the heart.
Perhaps it was the cry of love that pulled the Magi across the hinterlands, averting Herod’s threatening watch, to a humble and lowly place where a new kind of king was born. The place where they crowned Love as the most powerful force in the universe.
This Epiphany, we can make the journey to that place, too, in our hearts. When the cry for love is met there, we seem to have an easier time finding our way to purpose and meaning in our lives. Strangely, in my own experience, this cry for love is answered best when I am opening my heart to this same need in others. Particularly those who are rejected, wounded, abandoned and traumatized.
When we look into the broken hearts of others with love, we often see the eyes of Christ, the God who is love, the Wounded Healer looking back at us. The brokenness of others is like a mirror of God’s love, staring into our own hearts, pulling from us the Divine love that lives within us all. Somehow, we have to see it in action to know that it’s really there.
Perhaps the Magi did not come to see but to be seen, to be fully observed by the eyes of heaven, to be changed by love. After all, they had been searching for purpose and meaning for so long outside of themselves, maybe seeing the Christ gave them permission to finally look within.
This year, I’m taking a new approach. Having spent the better part of my life setting goals to produce material successes (and often failures) in the world, I’m letting all of that go. I’m just going to let my heart speak and translate that into the world. I’m looking forward to hearing what love has to say.
What about you? What are some of your thoughts on goals, new year’s resolutions and epiphanies as you move into a new year? I’d love to hear from you, leave your comments in the section below.
Grace and Peace,
About the Author: Sherry Cothran, M.Div., is a speaker, musician, author and ordained minister. In addition to her ongoing work as senior pastor, Sherry has been featured in USA Today, UMC.org, led at Festival of Homiletics, was the Artist in Residence, 2015, at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary and the recipient of two grants from the Louisville Institute. Her sermons and blogs have been featured in Good Preacher, Abingdon Women, The Interpreter, Ministry Matters, Alive Now. An award winning recording artist, her most recent collaboration with indie film maker, Tracy Facceli, “Tending Angels” can be viewed on You Tube. Sherry is regularly booked as a keynote speaker, workshop leader and performer of songs and stories.
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