Peace for the Journey
By Savannah Kate Coffey. Kate is a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary and Shalem’s Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program for which she now serves as adjunct staff. She lives and writes in South Carolina.
I am always so intrigued this time of year by those mysterious Magi who undertook their storied journey to find Jesus. How extraordinary to leave their country, their loved ones, their charts and more familiar stars, to leave their wealth in the keeping of others. There was no guarantee of their return, or that their lives and kingdoms would be intact after so many months on the road. How did they make the choice to follow this particular star wherever it led? Were they in agreement? Did the decision arrive as a gradual dawning or a quick flash of clarity? At some point the moment stands ready, the camels are loaded and they begin.
These pilgrims were dreamers, scholars, and men of awareness. History calls them “wise men.” They were noticers, having seen the rise of the infant king’s star. Benedictine sister Joan Chittister writes that “consciousness commits us. Once we know something must change, we must begin to work to change it.” There is no going back– even just to the moment before the new awareness makes its claim upon us. There is always the option, of course, to ignore the knowing–to shut our eyes tightly against the starlight, plug our ears and hum our own little tune, hoping that somehow this uninvited awareness will mosey on down the road. The crossroads of decision are myriad—relationships, comings, goings, health, vocation, parenthood, graduation, birthing and dying, where and how to live, where and how to pray. There is so much at stake, so much good in staying put, so much that feels like home.
The cost for building kingdoms we are unwilling to leave is very high. In refusing to honor awareness we surrender our own wisdom and courage. Integrity and peace become ever-more elusive when we know the stirrings of change but choose comfort and life-as-usual instead. Peace is the result of cooperating with our own deepest awareness and best understanding at this time, no matter how steep the path before us or how difficult the leaving (or staying) may be. We might call this inner knowing the Holy Spirit. Anxiety, half-heartedness, apathy, and second-guessing are perhaps signs that we need to stop and take notice again of our hearts. Is there an invitation we have refused to acknowledge because of fear or pain or inconvenience? Do we wish that we didn’t know what we now know deep down inside? Do we resent the claim this knowledge makes upon us?
Advent is a season of great movement. We celebrate the courageous journeying of Joseph and Mary, the shepherds, and the wise men. Our personal journeys are no less significant. As we travel amidst our family and friends, end one year and begin the next, and follow new stars rising in the sky, may we honor and greet the moment of decision when it arrives. May we be given the courage to cooperate with our deepest and best understanding of our path. Companioned by the Holy Spirit may we discover anew our own inner wisdom and the beauty of the gifts we bear on behalf of the Beloved. Perhaps we too will be remembered for our manner of traveling through life, for the integrity of our actions, for the peace in our hearts, and for our generosity of spirit.