It’s a mathematically-proved constant of life: Things don’t always work out the way you planned and seldom in a manner you would prefer. Murphy’s Law is alive and well in our world today and the exceptions to the rule are few and far between. In fact, it has reached a point where in the realm of engineering, we are advised to always plan our projects with built-in variables to prevent a worst-case situation in the areas of safety and environmental impact. This axiom is best expressed in the words of Yeats: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”
How many times have I used the expression ‘if only’ or ‘I should have’ when pondering the winsome episodes of my past? Many times in my life I have planned things, covering bases and researching possibilities with care and concern, only to discover later a minute detail I had overlooked. And those details seem to always find their way to the surface and return to haunt me. What can I do in those situations - a situation in which what I thought I knew turns out to be what I didn’t account for?
I can pack it in. Give up and move on to something else. Shake my head and wash my hands of the whole goal or plan I had conceived a few days, hours, or even minutes earlier. That’s human nature. We hate failure by others, but abhor it even more so when we unmask it in our own life.
Luke tells the story of two men a couple of thousand years ago who felt the same as I have on many occasions today. They were followers of Christ, but after his crucifixion they had packed it in and were heading home. I’ll let them speak for themselves here: “But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel:” They thought He was the Messiah, in fact, they were certain of it. They had watched Him feed the multitude, heal the sick, cast out demons, and even raise the dead. But now He was gone; executed by the authorities and buried in a borrowed tomb. The faith they had placed in a Nazarene carpenter had seemed so sure, so perfect during the time He had walked with them. Now they only felt empty inside, scared, and did not know where to turn. So they left the other disciples in Jerusalem and started walking back home – seven miles away down a proverbial boulevard of broken dreams to a small town called Emmaus.
I’ve been on that road many times in my spiritual life. I’ve been in church services that were dead, empty, and left me wondering why I bothered attending them in the first place. It is during those times I find myself wanting to pack it in and head for home. Give it up and spend my Sunday mornings playing golf, or at least catching the pre-game or pre-race shows on television. I could save my tithe money and put it towards a new vehicle or into a hedge fund for retirement. What’s the point? My spiritual life started out well and good, but things change. We mature and in the process outgrow what we used to love – it’s only natural, right? And after all, I’m only human and can only do so much…
So I find myself walking to Emmaus. Like the two disciples of Luke’s day found themselves.
Then HE shows up. The unknown stranger. The one who seems to be out of the loop to all of the turmoil that is going on in my spiritual life, and He is asking me a lot of very pointed questions. What’s more, He offers me nothing new, no exciting revelations of cosmic events I’ve yet to ponder on my own. Instead He uses the same Scriptures I’ve studied all of my life to point out things to me that I thought I already knew; things I thought I understood. But I was wrong. Somehow despite the study of those scriptures and the earnest way I have tried to live my spiritual life, I’ve obviously missed quite a few things along the way.
My spiritual life is not about the message the pastor provides on Sunday mornings. That message is to help me and feed me as a Christian, but a pastor is human. Some messages will always be better than others. My spiritual life is not about how well I lead the singing, or choosing the most spiritual songs at the appropriate time to go along with the message during the worship service. My spiritual life is not about my Sunday School class and the amount of students that are blessed by me and the knowledge I share with them due to the fact I am such a marvelous teacher. I am compelled by the Holy Spirit to do the best I can in both areas, but I am limited by the flesh and just like my pastor, I am also human.
The truth is, my spiritual walk is about never walking alone. Not just on the road to Emmaus, but on any path I happen to find myself trodding. It’s all about my daily relationship with Him, and having Him near me on the trip as not only my best friend but also as my guide. It’s having fellowship with Him as He teaches me the things I should know in my heart, breaking spiritual bread with me as I pray, and allowing my soul to understand its place within the Kingdom of Heaven. Much like the two disciples after meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus, my heart begins to burn within me as He shares the truths recorded in His Word.
Walking with Him gives me a much needed and longed for perspective on the things that are the most important in this life. That perspective is much harder to find when I find myself out there on the dusty road to Emmaus. Without a trusted guide, you can get lost out there.