On this day in 1987 I don’t know very much about the Emmaus Walk movement but I know and trust my sponsors, Chet and Martha Cramer. They are retired United Methodist home missionaries. Martha is going to be at the event so off I go to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, leaving Bob and the boys in Campbellsville. I desperately need a time of respite. I don’t care very much what happens on a Walk. I just want a break.
An Emmaus Walk always begins on a Thursday evening and continues through Sunday afternoon. Everywhere in the world when Walks happen, there is a set format.
On the Friday evening of my Walk we pilgrims, about forty women, assemble in the sanctuary of the Methodist church where the Walk is being held. The Spiritual Director leads us through a guided meditation.
“Imagine,” he says, “that Jesus is standing several feet in front of you. Just spend a few silent moments thinking about that. Look at him looking at you.”
“In a minute Jesus wants to walk toward you and sit down on the pew in exactly the space where you are sitting. You and Jesus will be filling the very same space. If you aren’t willing for this to happen, that’s okay, but if you are, let Jesus come toward you now.” We sit in silence and think about this — about Jesus’ spirit and our own filling the very same space.
“In a few minutes Jesus is going to stand up and walk away from you. He is going to walk into the experiences of your individual life. Just sit quietly and watch what he does.”
Suddenly I am sitting in the family room in our house in Campbellsville. I am sitting on the green loveseat near the back door facing into the room. I can see beyond the breakfast bar across the room in front of me to what Bob calls our “one-fanny” kitchen. Lew is sitting in his small blue wheelchair in the kitchen with his back toward me. He is in the place he always sits when I fed him.
Jesus stands up from the space we are filling and starts to walk toward Lew. I jump up and try to catch up with Jesus to get to my son.
That is all.
As quickly as it happens, it is over. I am back in the church sanctuary sitting with the other pilgrims in the candlelight. I sit there for the next hour at least. All except one pilgrim leave. The Spiritual Director occasionally checks on us but, no, I don’t need anything. I need to think about what just happened and what it means.
One thing I realize is that on a deep, subconscious level I do want to care for Lew. I couldn’t have put it in words before but on a deep subconscious level I am afraid that I don’t love Lew – that I don’t want to care for him. There have been times when I was so tired. I would be sitting on that green sofa, exhausted, not able to make myself move to do the next thing Lew needed. This experience shows me that I really do want to care for Lew. I want to be the hands of Jesus on Lew. I want to gather my strength and go to Lew.
Another thing I see is that even if I can’t muster the physical strength to go be the hands of Jesus on my son, Jesus can and will be there. (I have no idea at the time how important this knowledge will be to me in the future when I can’t be there for Lew all the time. When that time comes, I will have to learn to trust Jesus to be there and to let others be the hands of Jesus on my child, but this is getting ahead of the story.)
For years I struggled with what to call this experience. It seemed grandiose, arrogant even, to call it a “vision.” Other people have visions. Saints have visions. I was confused. Now I would call this an example of God’s grace, custom-designed and personally delivered to me. This exact experience would have no meaning for anyone else; for me it became a talisman that sustained me that day and on many difficult days ahead. It was a means of grace to me.
In this vision I see Jesus going before me. I see that if I am where He is, His strength can move through my hands to touch my world. If I am too tired and weak to move, He can and will use other hands to work His will. Whether or not I am physically present in Lew’s world, Jesus is there with him. God may use the hands of other people or reveal God directly though the Holy Spirit but in any case, Lew is surrounded by the love of God. It’s not all up to me.
Praise be to God!