Friday, February 10, 2017

EMMAUS, A WALK WITH JESUS....THROUGH GRIEF!

Recently, my family and I have returned back to Mozambique after our first furlough.  A first furlough can in itself be a source for endless blogs, but we will keep this one focused on the topic of grief. A topic that we have been astounded by how little is actually talked about within the missionary community and the church for that matter. This entry is not to criticize those communities in anyway but rather to allow space to process and maybe shed light on areas we may need to grieve.

In our journey as a family to unpack and debrief our first year and a half in a foreign, impoverished, and very challenged country we found ourselves with some other foreigners looking into a passage of scripture in Luke chapter 24. What we discovered as a family was one of the most effective scriptures I have ever seen on grief, especially in the setting of a family or a community. Now I have read this passage so many times in my life, but putting on the lenses of processing brokenness gave me insight I had never had.

Beginning in vs 13 Luke shares the story of two disciples walking down a road discussing the recent things that had happened pertaining to the death of Jesus Christ. As they are walking and grieving together a man (Jesus) appears and begins to walk with them asking them questions. One of the disciples answers, "are you the only one in Jerusalem that does not know what has been going on?"
For they did not recognize Jesus. Of course Jesus knew! However, Jesus decides to ask a question. "What things?" he responds. Wow! He basically says, I want to hear your side of it. I want to know your feelings on the matter. I want to know why your heart is in anguish over this. He invites himself into their grief process. He gets them to put out their whole heart, as they say in verse 21, "but we had HOPED that he was the one to REDEEM Israel." Hope deferred makes the heart sick, and their hearts were sick. (Proverbs 13:12) They continued, to make things worse his body has vanished now and some of our community is saying they have seen him. We don't know what to believe!

Jesus takes the time like the good counselor to examine their hearts, and see where they are really at. He doesn't just come out and say here I am. They weren't ready to receive him in that way yet. They were grieving! Their hopes had been dashed. At this point Jesus is able to engage them in truth because they were honest and vulnerable with him. The two of them had bared their true expectations of the man that had been called Messiah.  And they had done all this to the very one they were grieving the loss of. Man God's ways are above ours, or maybe in this case I should say walking beside ours. He engages them with the reality of a stranger who is seeing things clearly outside of their grief, and who better then him. (though they did not know it was him yet)

By this time the day is getting dark and they are at the end of their walk, but they don't want him to leave! A very interesting thing happens next. They invite him to stay the night in their house....a complete stranger!!! Why? Because, he has listened to their grief, confusion, and sadness! They now trust him. Most of all they choose to now let him enter into that grief in their most intimate place, their house. The next scene is so amazing! We find Jesus at the head of their own table! The visitor who 7 miles before they did not even know is now 'The Host' in their house! Ha! You have to love the remarkable ways of God.

While the disciples watch him, Jesus decides to share communion with them. Except this time their eyes would be opened wide. The savior takes the bread; blesses it, rips it in half, gives it to them, and disappears out of their sight. Now they know exactly who it was all along. This is the part where my wife and I also had our "uh huh" moment! He asks them about their grief, then he listens to them about it, then they decide to let him enter into their hurt, and finally he would show them his own suffering and how it has covered them in their grief. It is this revelation that would open their eyes permanently. The revelation came when they decided to ask him to 'enter in' to their suffering. And it was ultimately then that the true revelation would come, the revelation that would allow them to 'enter in' to his. But not just enter in. To 'bless it' to give thanks for it. To partake of it (to rip it). And to 'give it' away to others! The revelation of who he truly is came through grief. It came through breaking! And it would be Jesus at our personal table that would model the physical and spiritual breaking first, on our behalf, so that we are able to process grief properly. To fix our eyes on his suffering so that we can have right perspective daily to walk through our grief and that of our neighbors. What an example that has been set by our King!

As our family has journeyed through processing this passage, I wrote a song called 'Emmaus'. One of the verses says, "In our grief and confusion, He unveiled our true communion."
I posted it here at the end of the blog for you all to hear. May it bless you.

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