On the Road to Emmaus
Among the many reasons I will be pleased to visit my wife’s sister on Thanksgiving is the common bond we share of having walked the road to Emmaus.
The Walk to Emmaus® is often described as a spiritual retreat, yet is so much more. It is a worldwide movement aimed at strengthening the local church in discipleship and service, with ongoing communities literally around the world.
Pilgrims on the Road
Sandie completed her walk in late October, some 23 years after Janet and I completed our pilgrimage. (First-timers are known as pilgrims, with veterans of previous walks helping guide the weekend.)
Over 72 hours, a collection of 10 laypersons and five clergy present a series of talks. Covering the theme of God’s many means of grace, among the topics are prayer, setting priorities in life, and the priesthood of all believers.
In my case, my original walk served as a course correction that still reverberates with meaning.
It helped me appreciate how, without meaning to, I had become “full of myself.” I also saw how dreadfully I felt short of servanthood, an ideal too easily lost in the normal crush of life.
Since this walk originated with a denomination other the one I belonged to at the time, misgivings immediately cropped up about my participation. Fellow church members questioned my involvement or whether I had linked up with some kind of strange cult.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw that the Christ-centered, biblically-based material presented that weekend could have been the subject matter for a spiritual retreat at our church.
Still, critics who seem to know little about the walk throw darts at it as some kind of nasty ecumenical plot. Or, a mystical, New Age experience because of its oft-used “De Colores” greeting (a term with rather innocuous origins).
Prior to going on the walk, I heard a well-known author lob the latter accusation on a national radio talk show. That and other criticisms didn’t square with the profound, positive changes I had seen in the life of the friend who had urged me to attend.
Fortunately, a woman called in the next day to correct the author’s blatant mischaracterizations, and as I heard her correctives, I lost faith in anything else that critic had to say.
People will have to make their own judgments, but I consider the Emmaus community a continuing blessing, even though it’s been three years since I participated as a team member.
Just as my original walk touched me, so did the latest one. It was an unexpected blessing, since my primary desire was to help pilgrims experience the same kind of spiritual uplift I had enjoyed in 1991.
Midway through the weekend, during a private prayer time, I sensed God telling me I needed to die to self.
In a remarkably unemotional and brief prayer, I did that. And, in a wordless kind of “mind to mind” communication, the Holy Spirit showed me how most of my problems were rooted in pride.
About two hours later I walked outside to pray with four other men at our table. There I sensed the Spirit’s presence so strongly I felt like we might float away into the clouds.
Suddenly, the situations that had loomed so large—particularly my ongoing decline in income during the recession—shrank in importance.
For this, and many other reasons, I highly recommend Emmaus to those who haven’t been on a walk. And on Thanksgiving, I will greet my sister-in-law: “De Colores.”