Sunday’s Gospel has all the elements of a best selling novel. You have the villain in King Herod, out to destroy innocence and Love made tangible by slaughtering the infant Christ Child. You have the unsuspecting, naive Wise Men ready to lead the villain right to his most coveted prey. You have a Mother and Father in Mary and Joseph, Blessed, but human and frighted by the tasks presented them and in their desire to keep their Child safe, and you have the victim whose time has not yet come, Jesus Christ, yet an infant, incapable of defending Himself, far too young for us to imagine being harmed.
The reading has suspense, drama, and action. It ends with Divine Intervention, Wise Men willing to heed advice given to them, and the narrow escape of The Innocent Child, all the elements of an amazing story, one many today would question the validity of and yet, this is more than a story. These events are recorded history with few disputes among various peoples.
Most good stories are like that. It’s hardships that make our favorite stories so interesting…the Diary of Anne Frank, The Donner Party, Mary Jemison: Indian Captive, so many tales across race and religion, region and reason. What often makes the most memorable stories are those that contain the greatest struggle.
Even while going through the hardships of abandonment while pregnant, sudden, unwanted divorce and annulment, and the loss of our home and financial hardships, there were times I could not help but think that if this were happening to someone else, I might not believe it was real.
It would make a great story – except that it wasn’t “a Story.” It was my children’s lives; it was my life, and it was all true.
I can’t tell you how many days, weeks, months I stumbled blindly in the darkness, literally trembling uncontrollably from head to toe, confused, alone, scared, knowing that even with the best support one could ask for, at the end of the day, I alone would have to deal with what was happening, with our story.
With close to 50% of Marriages failing,
I quickly discovered I was not alone.
It was only a few weeks after my husband left that I opened my front door to the woman, tears of pain and anger streaming down her face as she told me her story. That was my first experience seeing the Truth of infidelity, of abandonment, of divorce of the stories that are played out in our homes and courtrooms in another, but it was not the last.
Since beginning Single Mom Smiling, I’ve had women writing to me (and a few men too) telling me their stories. Each one touching my Heart. Each Woman, each Man, each Child, each Family prayed for, each story carried with me until I one day meet our Lord and hand them all over to Him.
The thing about these stories is that we all feel we are stumbling blindly in the darkness, and, for the most part, we are. We are surrounded by confusion, anxiety, pain, fear, rejection, and worthlessness the likes of which our Married and single friends can’t understand. Those dark emotions pull us down, darken our skies, and make it hard to find the right path.
But darkness also provides opportunity.
Think back to the Matthew 2:1-12 and how important darkness is to the story. Mary and Joseph had traveled far to reach Bethlehem. There was no room at the inn, and so they were give a spot in a stable, among animals, and Jesus was born in the night, the Light in the dark.
Think of the Wise Men and how they found the Child. We know they are wise and wealthy, but it wasn’t their intelligence or their money that brought them to that stable. The Wise Men could not have found the Infant Jesus had their skies been bright. It is only because darkness surrounded them that the Light was able to shine so brightly guiding their way.
The Wise Men followed the Star but were not to proud to seek advice either; however, after seeking the advice of King Herod and discovering he did not know the way, Wisdom told them to leave Herod behind and continue, eyes Heavenward, to their ultimate destination.
Goos stories usually have a villain, an evil character who causes pain and heartbreak, but it is often the actions of the victim that compound the situation. Have you seen the recent horror movie Geico commercial spoof? Watch how the victims determine their own fate.
We get a kick out of this video because we see the foolishness of the victims. Who would hide in a woodshed full of chainsaws and carving equipment when being chased by a psycho?
And yet, we laugh perhaps because it hits too close to home and we find ourselves doing similar things. When our stories get too challenging, when our personal villains are poised to pounce, and when our darkness blinds us to what we need to see, we stumble and fall and revert to old habits hoping they will keep us safe. We sometimes lack the Wise Men’s ability to leave behind those who interfere with our ultimate destination, hanging on to things that might not ever have truly existed except in our heart where we wished them to be.
Imagine how the Wise Men must have felt turning to Herod. They were probably excited but also a bit weary from their long journey, hoping to find a moment to rest and refresh, some guidance and perhaps a fellow traveling companion, another king ready to meet The King of Kings!
Instead they got a villain. How different the ending of this story may have been if they’d clung to what they had hoped Herod would be instead of who he had shown himself to be, if they’d taken their eyes off the Light for his sake or their own!
When we are surrounded by darkness, it is inevitable that we will fall at times. When we stumble, we look down at the ground, putting our hands out in front of us to brace our falls.
Perhaps our biggest problem though is that after stumbling, even when we rise, we seldom look up again. When we do it’s to complain rather than to refocus. We keep our eyes to the ground directly in front of us, fearful of the next obstacle in our paths, and we end up walking in circles repeating the same mistakes.
When your story seems overwhelming and all Hope seems lost, when you are stumbling about in the darkness, reflect on the Wise Men and on their journey. You always have choices and in your choices you have power. You can choose to hang around with Herod, deceiving yourself into believing he has the same goals as you or you can move on, keeping your eyes on the Light to guide your way.
You can stumble and fall and be afraid to look up again. You can keep your eyes on the ground in front of you, afraid to look at the big picture or to focus on your ultimate destination or you can learn from your detours and recommit to the journey.
The story of the Three Wise Men ends with an Angel visiting them in a dream and telling them to return Home in another way. Perhaps you too have been told to return Home, to not repeat the same path that got you where you are now, to keep your eyes focused on the Star to guide your way.
Sometimes we are where we are now, we have the stories we do because we acted in a certain way. We did not know better, so we did not do better or expect better or Hope and believe and pray for better, but with Faith, we become more like the Wise Men. We use darkness to show us the Light and eventually we find our way Home by a different route.
You have your villains. You have your darkness. You have your story.
It is time to follow the Light, to change your way, and start your journey Home by a different route.
Your new story has already begun…
And, as always, thanks for commenting, liking, following, and sharing!
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