The silver light pierces the morning with silence. We have made it to a wild plain. The crossing is slow. My arms and legs burn from pushing through thick grass. I can see the other side from here, but it does not seem closer with the passing of the day. Sometimes at night, I close my eyes and imagine myself a wild horse, galloping across this wasteland. But in the morning, there is only more slowness. I hold my compass up to the sun, desperate for a sense of direction, but none comes, only a quiet confirmation that I am, indeed, heading North.
My doubts are a constant companion, murmuring monologs in the empty spaces of my mind. Sometimes at home, I sit in the patch of sun that spills into the living room and sketch out troubled sentences in my plain, unlined notebook. Memories I thought I had forgotten, aches I thought I had dulled, wounds I thought I had learned to walk through. They’re suddenly here, my traveling companions. Pathetic in their awkward, twisted poses, in their bandaged, bloodstained ways. I back away, my hands in the air. I’m not the one you want. I turn and pick up speed. Maybe if I start now, I can make it to the hills, to my fortress of plans and plots. You grab me by the hand and hold my shaking body against yours.
We begin again. This time I stretch my gaze as far forward as possible, trying to remember how we first got here. A twinge of joy peeks at the corner of my mind as I remember our conversations, the winding journey over the past few years, the detours, the unmarked pathways, the surprise friends, and miracles. You gave me your hand years ago. I took it and we set out. Sometimes we walk in step. But there have been times recently when you hid in the clouds when the going became gray and unsure. There were other times you were so close I wondered if you were carrying me, other times when the way forward was so clear, I broke into a jog. But there are times like now when the fog falls heavy and I can barely discern the road.
I wonder if this is how the Three Kings felt, setting up camp in a desert, looking at each other, the fire casting shadows in sharp angles across their pensive faces. I wonder if they had told their families before leaving. Or if they had made plans for possibly not having a job once their quest was over. I wonder what they had sold to buy the myrrh, gold, and frankincense. I wonder if they ever got lost or had team fights. I wonder if they heard wild animals in the dark and thought about dying. I wonder if anyone told them they were crazy. If they felt crazy, straining their eyes looking for that guiding light.
I wonder if they wept because of heartache and fatigue, because of self-doubt. I wonder if they stopped in those moments of pain and considered turning back, but they didn’t because there was that star. What did they do when they found her? I wonder if they met at the pub after work to consult their notes and maps, to scratch their heads and shake them too, to write and rewrite possible meanings. And I wonder if it went quiet as they looked at each other. I wonder who was the first to speak, who was the first to say the thing they had all been afraid. That yes, God was coming to earth.
We’re on a drawbridge now, one of those shaky ones with no handrails. I pull my breath in sharp. Below me, the water swirls in all shades of violet and charcoal. My eyes are wide and my stomach is creeping up towards my mouth. You tell me to keep my eyes on You. I inch forward, asking you questions that have been burning at the edges of my mind. You don’t always answer right away, but when you do, you give me the same I answer I’d like to imagine you gave three men who trekked for three years to find you: that this journey despite its detours and dark passageways, despite its fiery pits and night terrors was not a waste of time. Yes, it would stretch them and break them and test them, but in time it would deliver them home…braver, deeper, and completely made whole again.