How to Have an Epiphany
The word EPIPHANY comes from a verb that means “to appear.” When something is made manifest, comes into appearance, or…
The word EPIPHANY comes from a verb that means “to appear.” When something is made manifest, comes into appearance, or shows up – it’s an epiphany. It comes from a Greek word (epiphaneia) if that makes it more impressive for you.
There is a cycle through the Christian year that mirrors the life of Jesus, moving from his birth (Advent and Christmas) right on through to his suffering, death, and resurrection at Easter. Some parts of the Church celebrate a big Day of Epiphany 12 days after Christmas (January 6 this year), and actually Epiphany is a whole season that extends from Christmas to Ash Wednesday. In short, it’s a happy time to celebrate the amazing truth that God has revealed himself to us as a human being in Jesus Christ. Ash Wednesday is this week, so the season of Epiphany is coming to a close.
The concept of epiphany is related to the word theophany. You probably recognize the prefix THEO in there – theophany is a special appearance of God. It’s when the Deity reveals himself to people in a special divine disclosure. The Bible is filled with stories of epiphany like this — when God shows up in a special way.
- · God shows up to Moses when he was at work through a flaming shrub (Exodus 3)
- · God leads his people forward by showing up in a moving cloud and fire (Exodus 13)
- · Moses calls out to God and he answers back one day (Exodus 19)
- · Isaiah, Ezekiel, the Psalms and the rest of Scripture contain many examples of epiphany.
In every day speech, we have come to refer to an epiphany as a sudden or striking realization about something. Like when you have an insight, a burst of AHA clarity. A scientific or philosophic breakthrough that finally leads to a “eureka” moment where you are enlightened about something is called an epiphany.
When Isaac Newton saw a falling apple he realized that the same force causing the apple to fall makes the moon to orbit, it was a kind of epiphany. He had a flash of insight, a deeper understanding, or as Johnny Nash would say, “I can see clearly now.”
Christ followers need to have regular epiphanies. If you could graph my spiritual growth, it would be a line that surges forward from epiphany to epiphany. Through the pain and joy of life’s experiences, God shows up for us, unexpectedly sometimes, like a burning bush.
A friend told me he is surprised at how gracious he was able to be with his father recently, whom he has spent decades hating. He knows God showed up unexpectedly, to help. Epiphany surprises you.
My brother’s daughter is precious to me. She and her husband had experienced sorrow and fear about having children. All of us prayed. A lot. When he learned they were pregnant, my brother worried his prayers toward the Lord every day for months, begging the Father to let this one go full term. Last night we skyped with him and his precious newborn grandbaby. He told me on the phone that sometimes you ask God for something, and when he grants it, you say thank you and move on. But this time is different. It is like a light switch has been flipped in his soul, illuminating the incredible grace of God and he has not stopped giving thanks, day by day, hour by hour. Epiphany changes you.
I’ll bet you know what I’m talking about. We need and thrive on those times when God shows up unexpectedly or gives an insight, a deep conviction in your spirit about something.
People screaming through life at 75 miles per hour don’t have epiphanies. Speed kills epiphanies. God may still be there, but they don’t see Him. They miss the appearing, and therefore the growth that comes from seeing and trusting and learning. Because you have to listen if you want to hear God. You have to stop and reflect if you want an insight. You have to slow down and smell the coffee if you hope to have your life punctuated by breakthrough and growth. (I actually dislike the smell of coffee, but stay with me here)
Why don’t you let yourself have an epiphany today! You can’t dial it up like you can order a pizza delivery. But you can start looking for God. And you can give yourself some space for him to show up.
Here’s how. Call it my practical guide to epiphany. Epiphany falls into two categories.
1. YEAH GOD! These are the times God showed up and blessed you. God came through for you, did something amazing in the world. Stop and think about it, identify it, and then give the Lord credit. Give thanks for unseen graces. Let your heart swell with gratitude about the countless ways the Lord has blessed you, and single out a couple of biggies. When it comes into view the best response is PRAISE.
Write down one sentence that describes a time when God came through for you. When he showed up in a gracious or surprising way. This is your YEE – HAH! Epiphany. It will make you more grateful and joyful and receptive to further works of the Spirit in your life.
2. YES GOD! These are the times when God reveals something about you that needs to change. He shows you your critical spirit. He reveals your words are hurtful, your habits are harmful, your attitude sour, your behavior sinful. Suddenly you realize it’s time to change, to break out of the bonds you’ve been in and move in a new direction, even if it hurts. When it comes into view the best response is REPENTANCE & OBEDIENCE.
Write down another sentence that states clearly the thing God has been impressing upon you recently through his still, small voice. What is that thing the Holy Spirit has been nudging you to begin, or to change, or to stop, so that you can live more fully for Jesus or remove a barrier between you? This is your AHA! Epiphany. It will make you more obedient and faithful and receptive to further leadings of God in your life.
Give yourself a moment to have a YEAH GOD moment of thanks and praise for some way God has blessed your life. And then give yourself a moment to have a YES GOD moment of repentance and obedience for some way God is calling you forward.