“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers…And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” ~ Thomas Merton
Today is the Feast of Epiphany. Three Wise Men have traveled from great distances to follow a star. They encounter God-With-Us and are awakened to a new understanding of creator and creation. They had a shared vision of danger at the hands of King Herod and went ‘home by another way’ avoiding the cruelties of the world and were transformed. Their story has been told and retold for over two-thousand years.
Most of us long for a personal epiphany in our lives. We hunger for a transformation from who we are to who we dream of being. But what is needed in order to achieve such a change? These awakenings seem to be rather elusive and come at unlikely times. I have discovered that if we let go of worry, hurry and hate allowing the love inside to shine, we will become instruments of that love regardless of our circumstances.
One of the wonderful epiphanies of our time came to Bill Wilson, a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. His chronic addiction to alcohol led him to be committed for the fourth time to Manhattan’s Towns Hospital in 1934. He was sedated and hopeless. Bill prayed and wept for God to ‘make Himself present’. He describes what happened next;
“The result was instant, electric, beyond description. The place seemed to light up, blinding white. I knew only ecstasy and seemed on a mountain. A great wind blew, enveloping and penetrating me. To me, it was not of air, but of Spirit Blazing, there came the tremendous thought. ‘You are a free man.’ Then the ecstasy subsided. I found myself in a new world ofconsciousness which was suffused by a Presence. One with the Universe, a greatpeace stole over me.”
Bill’s spiritual awakening, or white-light experience, was a liberating awareness of God which has saved the lives of countless souls through the gift of 12 Step Recovery.
There are many other similar stories. A common thread seems to be that a person must be in a position where there is a desperate need to listen. Karl Menninger describes this listening as a force that creates us, unfolds us and expands us. We must be open to the improbable, listening for the miraculous, willing to follow the improbable star, eager for change, and brave enough to go home another way. Epiphanies will come. Life will never be the same.