In the marvelous and moving movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close the main character is an eleven-year-old boy whose father died in the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11. An outcome of this horrific experience is that young Oskar became both frightened of the world around him and determined to make sense of what that world presented to him. Because of his special bond with his father the boy uses innovative and investigative methods to puncture his fear and pursue his quest for understanding. One such method is communicating by flashlight with his grandmother in an apartment directly across from his. Brilliant. Clever. And effective. Through visual Morse Code the two converse in the silence of the night.
We all have our methods. We all have our quests. We search for clues. Pieces of the puzzle. Signs. Glimpses of the light breaking through the darkness. It's been human nature and practice for as long as humans have been around. In the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, Moses has his encounter with a burning bush and Jacob with a ladder populated by angels and Saul with a blinding light accompanied by a questioning voice. We humans look around and up and within and between all manner of things in hopes of seeing the reassuring, the encouraging, even the miraculous. Some focus on nature. Others turn to science. Many delve into books. Some search works of art. Most of us muddle through our days unaware of what we seek and where we might be found by the wonder and mystery of life. It's breaking through everywhere all the time whether we are aware of it or not.
In a recent book titled Everything Is Spiritual, Rob Bell writes, "Think about all of the extraordinary things we've learned from science and how the more we discover, the more we see how much we don't know. Has there ever been any scientist anywhere who's ever announced that there's less than we'd thought? Less mystery? Less to explore? Less we don't know? No. It's always more. Every time. We only ever learn that there's more out there, in here, around us. We've only ever just been getting started."
The celebration of Epiphany happens this week. It's a formal way of remembering that God breaks into our reality on a regular basis yet with extraordinary outcomes. A brilliant star shines. Clever astrologists figure it out. Its light leads them effectively to a miraculous child. It's all wonder and mystery. And it's part of the story of our lives. Perhaps we'll be reminded that spotting the light takes more than a little focus on our parts.