When life disappoints

A day into my three day retreat and I am walking with the travelers on the road to Emmaus. Disappointed. Confused. “But we had hoped. . . “

Their honest words invite me to speak my disappointment to God.

“But I had hoped” that I wouldn’t reach the end of another Passion season and still feel like I don’t understand Your grace, or how to live in it.

“But I had hoped” that in calling me apart for this weekend You were calling me to come closer and I would find You here.

“But I had hoped” that the stretch of struggle to sit in Your presence would be over and I would be free to delight in You more deeply.

I had hoped a lot of things and now I walk with the pilgrims, heart heavy, trying to understand what has happened and where it has all gone so wrong.

“As they were talking and discussing these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them. . .” You Yourself were present in their grief and disappointment, walking alongside, “but they were kept from recognizing him.” (Luke 24:15-16) What is this about, I wonder? Was it just their grief that kept them from recognizing You? Their faulty focus? Preconceived ideas of what was and wasn’t possible?  The word is too intentional. You prevented them from recognizing You walking with them. Why?

I watch You walk with them, invite the opening of their grieving hearts. “What are you discussing. . . ?”  They pour it out.

I hear their confession of who they thought you were (“a prophet. . .”) and watch You prepare them to receive the truth that could only be welcomed from within the context of raw grief and the honest expression of disappointment. They hurt, not knowing that the shattering of their precious dreams was making space for God-conceived joy.

I sit face to face with frailty deeper than I want to see, longing to be in Your presence but struggling to stay, unable to understand the deeper truths that I ache to know.

Like Elijah, I find myself fed at the hand of another, and given sleep, loved through the gifts of sunshine and a listening ear and a rocking chair in a quiet corner filled with the gentle scent of daffodils. I receive grace: You are alive and are here, walking along with me, when I can recognize You and when I can’t.

I turn back to the travellers, watch as You break the bread and serve them and, finally, they see. Is this the only place we can finally see, in Your gentle serving of us in the midst of shattered illusions about ourselves and the god we have made in our own image?  Perhaps there is no other way to meet the real God than to find ourselves, again and again, broken and loved. And perhaps I haven’t reached the end of another Passion season without a deeper glimpse into grace.

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