Scripture: Luke 24:13-35
Vision is often considered as an exercise in looking ahead, toward something. But vision is also knowing when it’s time to walk away. When the cracks have grown to deep. When the money has run out. When the relationship is beyond repair.
For some of the disciples, that moment arrived as the stone rolled over the grave of Jesus. Stone grinding against sand grinding against small stones, grinding until their hopes were sealed away. Dead. Uprisings were not uncommon in the Roman Empire, and the Jewish people were no exception. The Maccabees. The Zealots. History tells us story after story of people groups under the thumb of Rome who tried to fight back. They had thought this leader would be different.
Luke’s gospel account tells us that at least two of the people who had followed Jesus left town. They strapped on their sandals, shoved loaves of bread and skins of wine into sacks alongside their broken dreams and crumpled pride and went home. They walked seven miles out of the city, on their way to whatever would come next – did it even matter?
As they walked, the conversation turned to what had just happened. What else was there to talk about? What must that conversation have been like? They had to have known Jesus’ actions were dangerous. You couldn’t just go around healing lepers and embracing tax collectors and talking openly with women and expect to fly under the radar.
In those moments, when we find ourselves walking away from someone or someplace we never imagined leaving, the “what if’s” swarm like bees to a hive.
If he had just done this instead…
If that person had never showed up…
If we had paced ourselves more…
If we had moved faster, more aggressively…
Engaging with “what if?” is playing tag with despair. It’s not necessarily a bad game, but it quickly becomes exhausting. Red faced and out of breath when the game is done, you find yourself in the same spot where you started, but with less energy to move forward.
As they were walking away from Jerusalem, a stranger approached them, and asked what they were talking about. Fear must have dropped like lead into their stomachs.
Who are you?
How do you not know what we would be talking about?
We’re talking about what everyone else is talking about!
The disciples walking away could have shut the questioning stranger down, given a short answer and kept walking, but they didn’t. They engaged the conversation, and the stranger began to tell them a story—one all too familiar.
“This is who you are, the family and the people you come from. You are this kind of people, but you forgot. These are the ones sent to remind your people of what kind of people you are.”
We all have those moments. We are shaken to our very core, the unthinkable happens, and we are left staring at the sky wondering who we even are. When this kind of soul-shaking tragedy strikes, we often aren’t looking for answers or a new vision, we’re looking to regain a sense of identity.
Often what we’re looking for is less about “why did this happen?” and more about “who am I now, in light of this?”
The stranger walks with the travelers until the road splits. The travelers are going to stop and rest, and they urge the stranger to have dinner with them. Around the table, they spread loaves of bread and skins of wine, hurriedly gathered and thrown together in fear and despair. The story-telling stranger breaks the bread, pours the wine, and suddenly something breaks through the fog. Of course.
There are times when we are led out in life, when the door closes on one season and we are brought in to another one. There are other times, though, when our grief is too thick and our pain is too great, and so we shove what we can salvage into our packs and walk away. We are thrust into a new space, rather than led into it.
Today, take a moment to acknowledge the kind of vision that is born of necessity, not desire. Breathe deep and acknowledge whatever feelings you find lingering in your gut still from whenever that moment hit, whether it was last week or ten years ago. Don’t be afraid to open your pack and pull out those things you rustled together in panic. The bare necessities are often unrealized gifts. Take out your bread and wine. Risk asking a person to join you, even when you don’t know why you would bother opening yourself up again. There is grace in that space. Look for the Divine not only in the temple or by the tomb, but on the road as you’re walking away.