Friday, June 8, 2012

The Road to Emmaus

The Road to Emmaus

Upon registering at our conference – “Walking in the Moment” (Ecclesiastical Province of Rupertsland Synod – if you’re not Anglican, and maybe even if you are, you just might have to google this... I don’t think I’m going to get around to explaining the organization of the Anglican Church of Canada in this installment) we were encouraged to blog about our experience this weekend. The theme comes from Luke 24:13-35 – The Road to Emmaus. To me this story illustrates the proverbial “aha” moments in one’s life. The disciples didn’t understand why Jesus died, why the supposed Messiah wasn’t the King, until a “stranger” explained God’s redemptive plan to them.

As we read this passage today we want to yell to them, “I know the end of the story - pay attention! Open your eyes!! That stranger is Jesus! It’s Him!!!” Finally they do get it... yes hindsight is often 20/20. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road...?” (Luke 24:32 NRSV) How many times do we only clue in after the fact that God was with us during a difficult journey in our life? Or a confusing time. Or a scary place. Or an ordinary day.  Jacob said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” (Genesis 28:16 NLT) Eureka! The lightbulb goes on!!

A few years ago I broke my foot. Bad injuries should really be accompanied by good stories. Not this one. I wasn’t skiing or skateboarding or hiking or horseback riding. My foot got tangled in a phone cord and I tripped. But did I ever do a number on my foot – surgery and screws and nerve damage and crutches for months. It was a nasty break. I couldn’t go to work. I couldn’t pick up my toddler. It was a momentous task just to get downstairs, let alone try to do laundry.  A whole bunch of other things were seemingly falling apart. I was in pain and I was cranky and I was really feeling sorry for myself. And I was mad at God.

One day I was driving to town (awkwardly), wallowing in self-pity and probably scowling. I felt like God was so far away. He was an idea. A memory. As I dwelt on the distance of God I turned on the radio. This is what I heard:
“I'm with you. If you believe in me, I'll believe in you. In the loneliest place you've ever been
I'm with you.”
 (I’m With You – The Stills.)

Fine, I thought sarcastically, God, so you’re with me. But I can’t feel you. Believe in you? I do – in my head, but in my heart? It’s too broken right now. And I’m still mad at you.

Then I thought, what am I talking about? This is not a song about God – this is the cheesy local radio station! This is some sappy Top 40 love song... they even use it in a beer commercial! Whatever.  I put God far away again and I went back to dwelling on my misfortune – angry and anxious.
“Breathe, just breathe, take the world off your shoulders and put it on me. I need you to hear me say  ‘Breathe, just breathe,’” (Breathe – Ryan Star)

Are you kidding me?! I almost drove off the road – this was EXACTLY what I needed to hear right now. I needed to stop holding my breath, waiting for something else bad to happen. I needed to let go and let God... so I took a deep breath... But is this really God talking to me? That’s crazy... isn’t it? I had never heard this song before, but I certainly needed to hear it now. Hmmm...
I eventually got to town and slowly and painfully did my errands. By the time I was finished, God was back in a box in a remote shelf of my mind and I was grumpy and sore and well, it’s just not fair.

Driving home I decided to take the back gravel roads. I meandered around the farm fields and metaphorically shook my fist at the universe and everyone in it. The radio has been on since I left town, but I didn’t hear it until now:
“And the tears come streaming down your face. Could it be worse? Lights will guide you home. And ignite your bones. And I will try to fix you.” (Fix You – Coldplay)

That was it. I pulled over and absolutely bawled... God was speaking to me through the Peace River radio station. He was using rock music to reach his hand out to me. Maybe He really was with me. Maybe He had been with me the whole time.

The disciples were walking down the road – depressed, confused, disappointed. And they were walking beside Jesus! How could they be so blind? He was right there beside them! How could they be so self-absorbed? So selfish? How could they not see that Jesus was victoriously walking alongside them?! How could they not know?

Wow. The scaIes fell from my eyes. How could I not know? My heart burned within. Jesus was walking beside me too. Yes, victoriously. I totally expected to see Jesus around the corner, cooking up some fish and breaking bread for me. I would’ve gotten out of the truck and ran over to say to Him, “I’m sorry.” And eat His bread.  So I guess that’s what I did.

I wasn’t exactly walking to Emmaus. And I realized that the journey was just as important as the “aha” moment. The journey can feel very lonely and hard, and sometimes the presence of the Lord is very subtle. And we are often better with thunder from Heaven messages than subtle and gentle companionship. Was I even trying to hear the still small voice?

My foot was still broken. And I was still prone to wandering off into self-pity. But I was not alone. Jesus was walking beside me. Always. Even when I was on crutches. And yes, like the famous footprints, when it was too hard for me to walk He carried me.

To this day my foot is changed. My gait has changed. My arch is different. My bones are crooked and my nerves are damaged. My walk with God has not only spiritually but literally and physically changed. And now my arthritic foot throbs, perhaps in rhythm with the heartbeat of Christ in me. Like Jacob’s hip after his wrestle with God, I have a physical reminder of my relationship and journey with my Father.

The Lord spoke to me when I desperately needed to hear Him. He opened my eyes when I  drastically needed to see Him. He told me He wants me to breathe. And He is with me. And He will fix me. Thanks be to God.
“Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him… The Lord has risen indeed!!” (Luke 24:31, 34 NRSV)
“People say I’m strange, does it make me a stranger...” (Jesus Freak – Newsboys)

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