Spring is here. The weather is getting sunnier, the temperature is warmer.
Time for a road trip!
I really like to travel. When I was a kid, I moved a lot, so I was used to a change of scenery more often than not. So when my family went to different places, it was always exciting and something I looked forward to. In fact, it isn’t a stretch to say that sometimes if I’m in one place for too long…I get antsy.
Road trips seem to be the cure for that feeling, though. Jump in the car and go somewhere.
Or forget the car—take a train, or a bus. Explore a city, or even the countryside.
Or scratch that—take a plane. Fly to another far away state or to another country or why not—go to another continent.
Take a trip. You’re bound to change.
That being said, though I do like traveling to faraway places, sometimes for me it can be as simple as walking somewhere close by where I have never walked before. I notice so much more when I walk than when I drive. Places that I thought were “familiar” are actually not. All the details of places and people and things are clearer. And the road, the journey is different when I walk. It takes longer, yes, that’s one thing. But also the journey requires some physical [and mental] effort on my part. I can also see where I’ve been, where I’m going, and where I am. There are smells, sounds, sights, and things to touch. It’s a holistic journey that engages all the senses.
This is from a recent walk.
Really, what’s a better cure for feeling down, or empty, or anxious, than a good walk?
Well, that is pretty much the setting for this Luke story in New Testament.
A couple of depressed guys walking down some road–some road to some town called Emmaus.
You, and Biblical scholars for that matter, cannot really find Emmaus on some map. We cannot really know where such a road existed—if it did at all.
The characters are also are just some people who happen to be some disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. Cleopas and one other person.
Some have tried to claim that this Cleopas is the variation of some other name that fits with a character in John’s Gospel, but that is quite a healthy stretch and probably just an attempt to make sense of the story.
Honestly though, let’s try not to “figure out” or explain away such a strange story.
Emmaus could be any town, or suburb, or city, or place.
The road could be any road or highway or train or bus line or street.
And the two disciples could be anyone.
Even you and me.
Luke’s story is not about historical people or places. It’s about the journey itself.
Essentially, the Emmaus Road is a metaphor for the journey of life.
We, like the two disciples, walk on a certain road and along the way, we encounter strangers. Sometimes, if we’re open to it, those strangers end up being “less strange” after we interact with them, because we find out that they also share some of the same disappointments, fears, anxieties, passions, and hopes that we have. If we’re open to sharing our authentic stories and listening to theirs, suddenly our eyes may open. We may see things differently.
We may see ourselves differently.
That “seeing” yourself differently is also referred to by another name: resurrection.
Like the “normal, everyday” people on the Emmaus road, we can be brought back to life.
They were full of despair and basically, they were dragging heavy feet on their journey.
But a stranger woke them up, their eyes were opened, and they were resurrected.
Luke as a storyteller tries to keep it simple for us.
The travelers see Jesus in the breaking of bread and in the hearing of their sacred story.
Essentially, when they eat and share and hear sacred stories, they remember.
And they see that the spirit is present with them.
We might be tempted to think that Jesus being known in the breaking of bread means the Sacramental ritual of Communion. Or we might be tempted to think that Jesus is known to us in the Scriptures only means the reading of the Bible.
But this seeing and knowing of Jesus happened on the journey to somewhere.
On the road.
In normal, everyday life.
Not in a church.
Not during a worship service.
Not during Communion or a Bible reading, or a sermon.
The seeing and knowing happens along the journey of life.
Everybody is on a journey, though we don’t always recognize it.
The essential question to ask is: what sort of journey are you on?
In which direction are you moving?
Are you moving in the direction of being freer, meaning that you are moving away from the destructive words others have said about your or the unhealthy ways you have been conditioned to think about yourself and others? Are you moving away from those voices that tell you that you are not worthy or that you don’t deserve love?
Are you moving on your journey towards peace, life, and gratitude?
And let’s not forget that it was the travelers’ hospitality that led them to open eyes and resurrection.
They were open to change because they invited change into their lives.
Then they ate. Then they remembered love and mercy and peace.
Then they lived again—as if for the first time.
And let’s also not forget that the travelers felt depressed.
They were sad. They mourned. They were disappointed in life—in the journey.
And we shouldn’t ignore this, because it’s real.
At times on our journey, we will feel this way. And we will encounter others who feel low, too.
Rather than ignoring such feelings or disappointments, or trying to cover them up with false happiness, what if we just kept walking on the journey? What if we recognized the low moments for what they are [moments] and accepted them?
Yes, I admit it. It can be hard sometimes—really hard.
We will be tempted to stop walking on the road and we can be coerced by our past to think that our journey has ended and there is no road for us left to walk.
Indeed, there are winding roads and twists and turns and peaks and valleys.
The journey is not a straight line.
But we have to show hospitality to change.
We need to share our own stories with others and hear their stories, too.
We need to eat with other people.
We need to see ourselves and the world differently.
Yes, we do.
I said earlier that the Emmaus road is a metaphor.
It is, but it’s more than just something you do once or twice.
It’s a daily activity.
Each morning, you have a chance to walk on your road—to begin your journey again.
The most truthful and beautiful part about life’s journey is that each day it starts again.
Whatever happened yesterday is over with.
And tomorrow hasn’t happened yet so it’s not real.
Only today matters.
The steps on your journey in this present moment matter the most.}
The stories you share and the stories you hear.
The strangers you meet.
The hospitality you show.
The food you eat and share.
The change in you.
Don’t give up on change.
Walk your unique road.
Be open to all the amazing strangers you can meet.
Listen and share.