Contemplative Life, Spiritual Direction

Walking Together: Recognizing Jesus Along the Journey

by Margot Eyring

I was reminded this week of a story that has helped me understand some of the ways the Spirit brings insight and discernment. Each aspect of this unfolding story involves an important lesson on recognizing the presence of Jesus, but in this story, no one aspect was sufficient on its own.

The disciples walking the road to Emmaus were in a difficult, confusing time. They had several hours of walking and conversation to remember and question the recent happenings. A man came up and walked with them, inviting them to recount their discussion. In their sadness, they told of lost hopes, lost possibilities, and the lost body of their friend! The man then walked them through the Hebrew Scriptures, reminding them of everything that spoke of their lost friend. When they arrived home, the man acted as if he were going on and the two begged him to join them for supper. As they sat together at the table, the man blessed, broke and gave the bread to them and they finally recognized him as Jesus. He disappeared. As the two reflected on the encounter, they remembered the fire they had felt in their bodies as they had walked and talked with him.

The two walked together, with enough time and space to reflect on their journey. This “moving meditation” allowed for embodied knowing. When Jesus joined them, he invited them to speak out loud the story that had captured them as they had talked together. The two named their sorrows and questions and acknowledged they had a difficult time imagining he didn’t know about current happenings. Jesus challenged their faith and then helped them remember the truth in the scriptures that spoke to their current situation. As they reached their destination, Jesus waited for an invitation and created space for them to take the initiative to invite him to join them. As Jesus practiced the ritual at the table, their eyes were finally opened to recognize him. He disappeared and the clarity of his physical presence became a memory. As they recalled the physical sensations in their bodies when Jesus had spoken to them on the walk, they now understood them to have been signs of his presence that they hadn’t recognized at the time.

Spiritual directors are companions on the journey, helping to create time and space for encounters with Jesus. “Walking together” physically and metaphorically, reflecting on scripture and finding truth, exploring the stories of our lives, asking questions, speaking challenges, issuing invitations, naming emotions, doing spiritual practices, and remembering how Jesus has shown up previously are ways the space of spiritual direction can help us recognize the presence of Jesus. Regardless of our story, finding ways to be open to Jesus showing up in the midst of our lives and to increase our ability to respond to the Holy Spirit on our journey with God is the work of spiritual direction. If you would like help finding a spiritual director, click here.

-Margot Eyring
Spiritual Director with Coracle

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