Psalm 29, 98
Isaiah 66: 18-23
One of my favorite sayings in the language of Twelve Step spirituality is “Don’t give up before the miracle happens.” That quote is often attributed to Fannie Flagg, but I don’t know whether she really invented it, or she borrowed it from the Twelve Step vocabulary list. It’s a great saying all the same.
For me, the Eve of Epiphany conjures up all the things in life that speak to the weariness, the potential despair, and the self-doubt that we all feel when that miracle is not yet in sight. We get a glimpse of what this must have been like for the Magi in T.S. Eliot’s immortal poem, “The Journey of the Magi.” (watch below) When we are on a journey that in some ways, seems assigned by others, and we are unsure of its meaning or implication for ourselves or the larger world around us, there are bound to be times that we feel the weight of it and the lack of purpose.
Our reading in Isaiah serves as a reminder that the big picture is not always evident when we are merely one of the pieces doing the “gathering” for a project not yet revealed. Our human nature is to prefer to be the mastermind behind the project; to direct that gathering of material and resources rather than to be one of the mindless “grunts” in the process. Most of us prefer clear instructions and a tangible outcome. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case in our lives and ministries.
A few days ago, I was made aware of a connection in my life that previously, simply didn’t exist. One of the ministries that I have volunteered for the past two years is a cold weather shelter 90 miles from me. Someone recently posted on Facebook a story of how a group of pre-medical scholarship recipients at the University of Missouri are an integral part of that ministry.
You see, part of the reason that scholarship was founded, and includes my undergraduate alma mater, Truman State University, was because of the relationship my medical school dean cultivated with me and two of my classmates. I, like the Magi, am generally a little distrustful of authority. My general attitude with authority figures is to hide from them and hope I am not seen, and “out of trouble.” Deans are people who tend to have enemies within the faculty and student body; it’s generally a good plan to stay out of anyone’s cross-hairs.
However, for me, that relationship changes when I find the authority figure has the ability to share his or her mistakes with me. I came to respect this dean because he was very blunt with me about HIS mistakes in life; so I became more able to converse, and even on occasion, disagree.
All that happened at a time that I was feeling very weary and beaten-up with life, and very unsure about my future. Now, almost two decades later, I saw how the links interconnected with my present life and ministry. The miracle had finally presented itself. I am grateful I did not give up before the miracle happened. I never could have imagined that a “difficult thing” at a “difficult time” in my life could ever hook to a present joy–but it did.
What changes for us in our “dark times” when we embrace the possibility that it is part of God’s gathering process for something better than we can ask for or imagine?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid