When Jesus walks with us on the journey from sorrow to joy, he also gives us insight.
The insight he provided the couple on the road came through a connection of their current experience with scripture. He put everything in the context of Abraham, Moses, and the Prophets (Nouwen, p. 48).
Our deepest experiences of formation must always be connected to the larger experience which scripture and tradition provides. That is to say, “my experience” is never isolated from the longer, wider, and deeper experiences of our predecessors in the faith.
If we isolate our experiences and consider them “mine,” we will always miss something in the experience that God wanted to tell us. If the couple on the road to Emmaus had only had their current experience to go on, they would have misinterpreted both Jesus’ own death and their grief.
So, Jesus re-framed what they were thinking and feeling in relation to a story larger than their experience could provide. Nouwen describes it in these words: “If you want to discover this truth in your heart, you have to see your life as a little part of a greater story” (p. 49).
And before the end of the chapter, Nouwen rightly notes that it was when Jesus connected the experience of the couple to the scripture that their hearts began to burn.