Each year at Epiphany, I listen to James Taylor’s song Home by Another Way. In this song, he reminds us that the call to the Magi to change their plans finds resonance in our own lives today. He sings:
“Maybe me and you can be wise guys too
And go home by another way.”
At this time in my history, I am more aware than ever of what it means to have my plans disrupted and have to choose another path to my destination. Living through a pandemic has provided most of humanity with this experience and its accompanying lessons.
Lucky for me, I had good training in this regard from my father. Dad was a road superintendent in rural Ontario for much of his life. This was a perfect job for him as he loved driving hither and yon and observing the landscapes. There were always stories to tell about who lived where, which tree had been struck by lightening and where there had been a car accident. When our family went anywhere, we could never anticipate the route he might take. I am not sure my father even understood the concept of a bee-line! I inherited this trait. My husband often asks in frustration, “Do you always have to take the most circuitous route possible?” However, I think he would admit that our family has had the most incredible adventures as we have altered travel plans and navigated side roads for over thirty years now.
If we intend to seek out God in our midst and make a relationship with that God our lifetime destination, we will need to recognize that “God’s ways are not our ways.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) We can make all the plans we want, and so we should, for life is not manageable otherwise. However, somewhere in the planning, it is going to be essential that we leave room for those plans to change…. sometimes quite radically. When that happens, when we get messages (in dreams… or more commonly from the wise people around us) telling us that we need to take another route, it is important to change course, trusting that God’s star will guide us.
As followers of the Christ Child, sometimes we need to take a different way because God is taking us out of harm’s way. Historically, those who follow stars, oft find themselves to be the object of the wrath of the power-obsessed Herods of the world. But sometimes, we need to take a different way because God wants us to experience something we would not have experienced if we stayed on the highway. Alternate routes slow us down. They are winding. We have to pay more attention. This is a great metaphor for the spiritual life. It is about being brave. It is about trusting God. It is about surrendering our will to God’s will. It is about ultimately finding the right path to our final home which is to live in the heart of God.
For me Epiphany is a reminder to follow stars, bow before my God, surrender my power, listen to the voices in dreams and have the courage to be a “wise guy, too” and “go home a different way.”
Christine Way Skinner is a lay minister and author. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Theology degree from St. Francis Xavier University and a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. Christine loves trying to find inclusive, compelling and creative ways to pass on the church’s 2000 year old traditions. She also loves art, playing music, reading, gardening and playing board games with her children. Christine’s numerous publications can be found and purchased here.