Yesterday I drummed up the courage to went to church. Both services.
It took a bit of courage because I was slated to speak briefly about my experience in the psalms. The Rabbi (Brian Morgan) was preaching from Luke 24, the story of Cleopas and his wife, Mary, arguing along the road to Emmaus as they try to make sense of the events that had taken place in Jerusalem just a few days before, the events we know of as the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. I wanted to share here what I shared there…
I spent a year traveling through the first book of the Psalter, going one psalm at a time. In the early part of my year in the Psalms, it was like magic, like being in love. It was easy and every turn of the page, every line of poetry revealed something new about who God is and how He sees me. But the season turned, as all seasons must, and when it did it turned toward lament. I spent many months grieving – grieving wounds I didn’t even know I had, learning to let tears heal the past and make the present holy.
A funny thing happened there, deep in lament. As I learned to speak my truest self to God, I began to see in completely new ways the depth of my sin, my utter and complete inability to become the woman after God’s own heart. And so my journey took a new direction, now into the wilderness – but this was unlike any wilderness I had experienced before. Instead of shame there was feasting. Alone and bereft I discovered God’s presence to be more than enough for me.
At last I came to learn this was the destination of my psalms journey – the moment of awakening to an unearthly gratitude for God’s presence and the sure knowledge that the greatest gift He gives us is Himself and eyes wide open to see Him.
With the exception of those first few months in the psalms, what most characterized my psalms journey though was dissonance. Over and over I was ushered in to sacred space where there were precious few answers, where tension dominated, where God’s invitation to me was to loosen my grip, resist the need to pin it all down, practice holding the mystery of it all. I finally came to realize that the journey itself – the walking – was the thing. That the best part was the gaping, scary space that lies between starting and finishing.
It’s a place I would give almost anything to get back to, but God never takes us back does He? I can’t tell you how many times in the two years since I finished my book I have felt like the Pevensie children from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, grimly waiting for train in Paddington station but really what they are waiting for is the magical pull back to Narnia, back to Aslan, back to technicolor life.
So when Brian corralled me last weekend to see if I would stand in as Mary, Cleopas wife, I agreed because for me the Road to Emmaus is the road to Narnia, the road made by walking. I love the picture of these two people, arms and words flailing as they argue and debate and wonder, then joined by a stranger who sets their hearts on fire with a story so epic it simply has to be true because who could make up something like that?
I love the road to Emmaus. I love it so much I even wrote a poem about it.
When I wrote this poem two years ago, I was just beginning a new journey into trying to grasp the humanity of Jesus. I had realized in my psalms year that I related most of the time to Jesus as divine and grasped next to nothing of Jesus the human being. I couldn’t get past the idea that Jesus was like Superman, disguised as Clark Kent but really on the inside a superhero.
Like Thomas, I needed to put my hands on his scars. Not the ones from the crucifixion but the everyday scars that life had etched on his face – disappointment, frustration, discouragement, doubt, rejection, shame, heartbreak.
My Emmaus poem is written from the point of view of Jesus, which I realize is a bit presumptuous, but Jesus seems to like presumptuous women so I’m going to forge ahead here unapologetically.
It explores the place where the humanity of Jesus and the promise of the Road to Emmaus intersect — the place where one man with faith to trust God through the ebb and flow of the confusing, convoluted human experience gave birth to a whole new creation that will never again groan under the weight of death.
The Road to Emmaus
Can you love whom you do not love
even crushed beneath the
weight of your own pain?
Can you swallow evil down
bile turning to acid yet
not vomit it out?
Can you hold rejection in your own hands
while it blisters and burns
trusting Me to heal the scars?
Can you let Me kill you with the hope
I’ll raise you from the grave
and not forget?
I think I knew from that first moment
Dove resting on My head
How it all would end
Not the horror of it, mind you
No one could have foreseen that.
Can you feel the welts rise on your back
from the lash that loves to
separate flesh from bone?
Can you hold your tongue amid snarls of accusation
when you know better
when you know all there is to know?
Can you face the man who thinks he is your enemy
grip the table as he strikes you in the face
see him convulsed in confusion and fear?
Can you let your tears mix freely with your blood
without needing to explain
from whence they came?
Can you follow Me there
where theology fails and
evil plays every card?
Can you live without answers?
walk an untrod path?
die for a man’s choice to hate you?
Will you follow Me
Then take My hand
end My loneliness
walk with Me
to the cross
wait for Me
journey with Me
hear it all explained
until the ground
beneath our feet
turns to gold
in the New Jerusalem.