For weeks now, even since the early days of Advent, my thoughts have been filled with the anticipation of Epiphany. My thoughts were partly sad, because I felt that all I could bring to the Infant Jesus were empty pockets and counterfeit coins. But there was also joy, because the Feast of the Epiphany is a kind of icon of all my hope and all that I yearn for and journey toward.

Yesterday, on the eve of Epiphany, I took a journey of a different sort, returning to the monastery after several days of visiting with family in South Carolina. As always, I was driving a community car.

We don’t have GPS in most of our cars, and I am glad for the ambiguities and uncertainties of GPS-less travel. Instead, I usually drive with a map spread out on the seat beside me and an eye open for a new back road or an unexpected turn that suddenly looks compelling. It keeps my quizzical brow from softening into certainty and keeps me alert to ways in which the Lord bursts into this incarnate world like a star tumbling from the heavens.

Yesterday I took an unplanned right hand turn in Blackville, SC. A few piney woods later I stumbled across the loveliest country store you can imagine with a welcoming wooden sign that promised sandwiches and sweet tea.

The store was run by members of the local Mennonite community. It was a simple place without all the commercial accoutrements of most convenience stores. There were women in bonnets and men in beards and loaves of just-baked bread and a few locals and a few passersby and more than a few kind and cheerful words.

The store anchored the turn to a place called Healing Springs. But I was so ‘healed’ by the store that I didn’t even bother to look for the springs. I had already found a kind of icon of what I yearn for and journey toward.

In these days of GPS travel and authoritative electronic voices, the story of the magi reminds us that the journey toward our true destination is marked with uncertainty and ambiguity. Yet it is also marked by the certain hope that that the Lord ever bursts into this incarnate world, the joy of our beholding.

I journey to Him with counterfeit coins bleeding from empty pockets as I forget things and drop things and take endless wrong turns and let the glory of God slip through my fingers and fall to the side of the road as I stand by helplessly wondering what happened.

But I travel in hope and I travel in joy, knowing that even my sorrows can be transformed into a gift fit for a King.

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