By Katie Taylor
I recently left my job. Well, it was more of a career, a lifestyle, and, honestly, a central element of my identity. I was an Air Force officer and had served for more than ten years. The military lifestyle became my whole world, especially spending the last four years overseas and isolated from the general American culture. I had a promising career, excellent pay, and exceptional benefits.
I was stationed with my husband (which doesn’t always happen), and I had chosen to keep serving after our first child was born. The timing of my separation on paper seemed strange, and at the very least, I should have ridden out the benefit of a paid maternity leave for our second child until we were projected to move the following year.
But sometimes, Jesus asks us to take a great leap of faith. To take action and to follow him.
Taking the First Step
My time in prayer reminds me again and again that I just have to take the first step. Jesus isn’t showing me the whole road map for what my life, let alone what this year will entail, but he often gives just enough light to show then next step. He called me to the military, to work the first two years of my son’s life, but now he was calling me on a completely different course.
Why would God send me full speed in one direction only to slam on the brakes? The whiplash left me stunned and wondering if I was ever actually going the right way in the first place. At times it may seem that we are going nowhere, and no one understands what we are working towards, even the most powerful and supposedly knowing people.
Today’s readings are no different. Imagine how it would feel to be following a star, a symbol you believe means something huge, but it turns you on a path that no one else is on. Even the earthly king of the land of the prophecy cannot provide you direction when you arrive. The mysterious world of faith is giving you a sign, but the secular world looks at you as if you are crazy, with no guidance or assurance of support offered.
You might begin to believe you are irrational, on the wrong path, and that you made up the signs. Even when you get there, you expect to see the king of kings, but instead, you are led to a small village, an insignificant and humble home. Would you believe this is indeed the Lord? Your expectations when you set out might not be at all what you end up experiencing. The place of greatness might be much more ordinary in appearance.
I was comfortable with my job, and it is what I knew. Yes, there were bad days or moments, but to make a change would require much more effort on my part than maintaining the status quo. As we conclude the Christmas feast and dive into the last week of the Christmas season, Jesus doesn’t provide a call to be ordinary; he calls us to a new way of life. He demolished all expectations of what the messiah would be. Epiphany means ‘manifestation.’ It is an action that brings an abstract idea into reality. Today, we get to take the abstract and follow the wise men to an even deeper relationship and awareness of the existence of the real presence of God made man.
Maybe this all seems a little too much to ask as we dive into the year 2020. Perhaps today, we are just asking for a little more faith, a sign to remotivate us. However, I propose that what we need is a little more action. It requires effort to grow, just as it required a great act of faith from the magi to get up and follow a ridiculous star on an extraordinary journey.
A journey that would challenge them, but also lead them to fall prostrate in adoration of the infant Jesus. They answered the prophecy in today’s first reading, “And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising…They shall bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:3,6). Tobit 13:11 goes on to state, “Many nations will come from afar to the name of the Lord God, bearing gifts in their hands, gifts for the King of heaven…” God is faithful to those who get up and follow him. He answers his promises and rewards our trust. The magi might have been the ones giving gifts, but I believe what they received was even more magnificent and would no doubt strengthen their faith.
The Rewards of Faith
I cannot even list the ways God has confirmed my discernment to quit my job and rewarded my trust in him despite what the world said. Although entirely unknown when I chose to separate from the military, if I had not made this act of faith, I would have ended up living apart from my husband for over a year.
The day I should have been returning to work from maternity leave on a different continent ended up being the day my husband had emergency surgery. God has poured so many blessings and opportunities upon us as a result of me taking this step, this journey, and following a star to someplace wholly unknown. When I set out, I could not see where I would end up.
In the midst of suffering, we cannot always understand God’s will or gifts to us. But like the magi, I tried to keep asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?” It is this question that should guide us to discern God’s will. Jesus, more often than not, reveals himself in the ordinary, the tiny village home, and the manger. It takes great faith to take action and listen to the signs and not write them off as coincidence. When we follow these promptings of the Holy Spirit, we find his “profound peace” (Psalm 72).
Are you willing to take this radical step of faith and deepen your relationship with Jesus? Will you leave by a different path this year, to protect your faith and to foster new growth?
Taking the Step
The wise men represent all people and all nations who are called to adore and know God. Not all of us are called to give up our jobs, but everyone is called on a profound journey of conversion to find true peace. I want us to focus on a concrete application of today’s passages for our lives. Maybe you need to give something up, or perhaps you need to step out and give a little more of your time, talent, or treasure to Jesus. Sit down right now with the newborn king of the Jews and write down where he is calling you to take that first step.
About the author:
Katie Taylor is a WINE at Ease Specialist, who has a passion for Jesus and women’s ministry. She graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and earned a Masters in Counseling with a concentration in marriage and family from Liberty University. Katie is the wife of an Active Duty fighter pilot and mother of two incredible young children. She serves as a Natural Family Planning teacher, Bible study leader, Pietra Fitness instructor, spiritual coach, and previous RCIA director. Her passions include skiing, horseback riding, the outdoors, cooking, and working out.