Day Ten in "The Journey of the Wise Men: Twelve Days and Twelve Ways to Deepen Your Spiritual Practice" The light of the star is leading you uphill now. Bethlehem doesn't sit on a plain; it rests on a mountain. The last stage of your journey is a climb---a sweaty, gasping-for-air ascent toward the light of Christ.

Spiritual enlightenment is no walk in the park. You've crossed snow-covered mountains, crossed raging rivers, defeated bandits on the road, overcome thirst and hunger and fear, trudged on in the darkness against the howls of your inner demons. You're thinner than when you set out. Older. Poorer. In pursuit of this great Light, you've left nearly everything along the winding road behind you.

Your lungs burn with each step upward, but as you pause to catch your breath, you become increasingly aware of another sensation within you---pleasure. At first it seems strange, for why should such hard work, such risk, such fear and deprivation and loss result now in pleasure? Then it dawns on you. All you thought you needed, you don't need; all you thought you couldn't live without, you can live without; all you once thought mattered most, doesn't matter. You are free.  You shudder with a brief and exquisite happiness.

You own nothing now but faith, and the two gifts that cannot be separated from it---hope and love. Three treasures available to all, but possessed only by those who persevere in this difficult inner journey of prayer, those who traverse their own interior geography through landscapes as beautiful and challenging as anything on Earth.  Persevere, and Grace will meet you just beyond the next rise. (Romans 5.3-5)

Today, I will persevere in prayer. I'll yield all I once thought I could not live without. I'll breath-in the brief and exquisite happiness of this holy nakedness. Faith, carry me these last few steps. Hope, hold me. Love, fill me.

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