After Jesus’ death, two of his disciples left Jerusalem and were returning home to a village called Emmaus. Sad. Broken. Lost. Angry. I wonder what was going on inside of them as they walked this seven mile journey back home. Dreams broken. Plans changed. Hope scattered. Trust abandoned. Humiliated, perhaps? Betrayed, even? Their “Savior” had just died. They built their arks but the floods never came. Now what were they supposed to do?
Sometimes I wonder if every Christian, if every person, doesn’t discover themselves in a similar place at least some point in their lives. And it’s not like we’re ever fully prepared for it when life does decide to strike us down. What do we do when our Savior is no where to be found, when life falls apart, when dreams don’t come true and we’re forced to make a change of plans?
As a pastor, I have the profound privilege of entering into peoples’ lives during such seasons. For some reason or another, people still trust their pastor…or at least the ones who’ve earned their trust. I’ve been learning more and more how fragile the currency of trust has become, and how sacred we must treat it. For to whom are people supposed to go when their child is born in such ways that no longer make them “normal?” Whatever dreams they had dreamt while awaiting their child’s arrival seem to no longer be possible. Or how is a young couple supposed to digest a miscarriage in a world that doesn’t like to deal with uncomfortable conversations about death and the messiness of childbirth? How about those whose lives and faith are at the crossroads of irreconcilablity and crisis? Then there are those parents’ whose son comes out gay and they don’t know how to process their new reality. And, of course, are those who are blindsided by diagnoses of disease. How are we to go on living now?
Broken dreams. Scattered hopes. Changed plans.
Along the way, a man appeared and began walking with the two men from Emmaus. He listened to them and retold them the stories of scripture – the stories of their people, the stories of their God. Stories of life happening, in all of its pain-inducing brokenness. But also stories of God continuing to show up. Stories of God never letting go. Stories of God leading the lost through valleys and wildernesses. Stories of God providing, however meagerly, to get them through. Songs are written about these stories. Songs that remind us “Great is Thy faithfulness,” even when we’re not sure the Story is still true.
The stranger left after they had all eaten together. “Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread.” As they were walking…
May we all be so fortunate to have others walk with us and eat with us through these seasons of life. They are seasons. They come; they go. We are to go through them, and linger no longer than we have to.
And here’s one of the most beautiful aspects of this story: the two who were hurting, were walking together. Sometimes the suffering are the only ones who can truly understand each other. And, perhaps, in our walking together, we will recognize Jesus walking alongside us too. Perhaps we’ll be reminded that he has never left us and that he’ll never forsake us. Perhaps we will learn that there’s more to our story. Just like that fateful Easter morning so long ago.
Grace and peace my friends. The LORD is with you.