There can be so much grace in setting out.
When I first moved to the Dallas area, a friend in my apartment complex and I used to run together a lot. Always a planner, I was struck by the ease with which she was able to say “Let’s just pick a road and set out as far as we can.” On our running explorations, I saw more of my neighborhood than I would have seen otherwise, all the nooks and crannies. I learned what roads connected to other destinations, and that I was capable of running a lot further than I thought I was. One particular run was in the middle of the heat of summer. It was over 100 outside, and I had doubts about running too far that day. But still we, crazy people that we were, set out on one of our “let’s-see-where-this-goes runs.” It had been incredibly humid most of the run and honestly pretty miserable. Unexpectedly, however, as we were heading into our last mile or so back, it started to rain. I don’t think the rain has ever felt so good. I sloshed in puddles without care and ran comfortably the rest of the way home, all the pain of the journey forgotten.
This Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of the EpIphany – when the three kings came to visit Jesus. In a homily he gave a couple years ago on this feast, Pope Francis focused on three important components of what the magi did: they saw the star, they set out, and they brought gifts. He went on to devote paragraphs to each of these three things, but I admit… my eyes remained on the second point: they set out. As I start a new semester, this seems like something profound I can learn from the three kings.
They set out.
They began the journey.
And what an unpleasant journey it must have been. Like my friend and I, they had no clear map for their destination. Instead, they set out following a star! They left the safety and security of home and set out on a journey with a destination they did not completely understand at the time. I imagine (though not stated in the Gospels this way) that they had an attitude similar to that of my friend “Let’s choose this road and see where it goes.” Sure their path wasn’t totally uninformed, but it also wasn’t completely clear. Still, they set out.
And when they got to their destination, everything changed. Perhaps it was like when the gentle rain fell on me and relieved the sweltering heat of the day. Perhaps seeing Christ was as renewing as the cool drops on my head.
Their destination changed everything, but change was only possible because they started the journey in the first place.
There can be so much grace in setting out. So as we celebrate this Feast of the Epiphany, a feast that often signals the time to take down the Christmas decorations and return to work and school, let us consider what grace can come from getting up and setting out and blazing a new path that leads us ever closer to the person God is calling us to be.