On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me some gold, frankincense, and myrrh… While these ancient wise men knew what they were doing in bringing gifts foreshadowing the life of Jesus, they knew not where they were going—only trusting a simple golden star. They had been told, they had prepared, but there were still limitations to the knowledge of their journey ahead.
In the summer of 2016, I was graced with that same experience as I walked the Camino de Santiago. I had prepared. I had read. Other than a simple golden star, I did not know where I was going. For 33 days, I would walk and wonder, following only little yellow arrows and simple golden stars. Like the wise men, there were limitations to my knowledge of the journey ahead.
I still recall days where I would wander for hours through a densely wooded forest and suddenly the trail below my feet would dissolve into the brush. My direction was lost. Pausing for breath and holding off panic, I’d adjust my eyes and consider my surroundings. Silence was pervasive. The lush browns and ripe greens creeped over every inch, and somewhere subtly in the distance a tiny golden arrow pointed the direction at the foot of a tree. To find it, I simply needed to look.
Life, I feel, is much the same as those moments.
How often do we feel lost and overwhelmed by our surroundings?
How often do we feel trapped in the dense forest of life that we cannot find our bearings?
How often do we hope for direction but fail to find anything?
On the twelfth day of Christmas, I imagine the wise men felt a remarkable sense of accomplishment as their destination revealed itself just beneath a star. I know that after my 33 days of walking, my sense of accomplishment overwhelmed my eyes as my destination revealed itself at the end of an arrow.
How did I get here?
How did I find my way?
Our journey of life is never traveled alone. We speak often of those three “wise men,” but what about their “wise parents” who crafted their life, or the “wise women” who supported and possibly even walked with them along their journey.
“We each walk our own Camino,” a phrase often repeated along The Way, remaking how deeply personal the experience is for each pilgrim. Yet, it does not mean to isolate the pilgrim on their path. “The Camino provides,” another phrase echoed along the trail, hopes to illuminate the truth that when you find yourself in a moment of need, a glimmer of hope—a guiding star—will be discovered.
This is the Epiphany. A star was born. Christ came as a light to a world in need.
While the manifestation of God has since left our world, arrows of hope still line our path from those who have journeyed before us. Like those tiny golden arrows that line the tree trunks along Spain—sprayed by those who walked the journey before me—we each have tiny arrows that line our lives.
In our moments of despair, when we feel overwhelmed, and the direction of our lives lost in the brush of chaos, we need only to look for the tiny golden arrows of our life.
Who are our “wise men” who gifted us with the skills needed to foreshadow our life?
Who are our “wise women” who have supported us and revealed the light of our life?
Our golden arrow may be hard to see, as they are often revealed in the most unexpected places. While animal feeding troughs and tree trunks are hard to come by in the realities of our modern life, impossible parents, difficult colleagues, and wayward friends are not. The Epiphany inspires us to discover the light that has been revealed in every person and every place and follow it where it may lead.
Perhaps that impossible parent feels just as hopeless as me?
Perhaps that difficult colleague feels just as overwhelmed as me?
Perhaps that wayward friend feels just as lost as me?
The golden star is before each of our eyes. We may not know where exactly it will take us, but that is the journey of life. We are pilgrims headed towards a great unknown. The loving revelation of Christ was made known on the twelfth day of Christmas, but that light has since moved over the horizon. We need each other. We need more yellow arrows.
Someone feels shutout against a wall of fear.
We must be their ray of hope.
Someone feels overwhelmed by the weight of life.
We must be there to help carry their load.
Someone’s road has dissolved before their feet.
We must be their guiding arrow.
Someone is looking.
We must find them.
We may not feel lost in the woods right now, but someone out there does feel lost. Someone once did it for us, and we must now do it for them.
Some day, we will be that someone again.
This is the Camino de Epiphany. We are all pilgrims on a journey headed towards a great unknown. We walk paths already well worn, and create new paths around unforeseen obstacles. Like the wise men and wise women before us, we are inspired to follow their star unsure of where we may travel. One day their light, like Christ’s light, will journey beyond the horizon and it will be our light that new pilgrims will walk.
May we follow that golden star and become that guiding arrow to the world that has yet to take the first step.