Nouwen calls the third step in the journey from sorrow to joy “discovering the one who walks beside you” (p. 46).
The great mistake in too much contemporary formation is a spiritual expression of “rugged individualism.” The way of true formation is to be on the journey with others.
First, Nouwen reminds us that two people were walking together on the road to Emmaus. I believe the two were Cleopas and his wife. The context of the Emmaus story (e.g. they invited Jesus into their home) speaks for more than two unrelated people traveling together. But whatever the case, neither of them was walking alone.
We need not belabor the point (made over and over again on this blog) that spiritual formation occurs in community—with soul friends. We are never meant to walk alone. On our life journey we derive much counsel and comfort from others.
But there is “another” who joins us on the journey—One Who re-frames the journey and reignites our motivation not to give up. The Emmaus story is familiar; we know who the stranger is, but Cleopas and his wife did not know at first. And this is a reminder to us that often the Risen Christ comes to us as a “stranger”—that is, we do not recognize him until his presence and grace have been at work in us for a while.
Nouwen writes more extensively about all this in his book, With Burning Hearts. I hope you will read it soon, if you have not already. But in our current text, he says something very important about how Jesus works in our lives….
“Jesus does not say, ‘Oh, don’t worry. It will all be okay.’ No, he says, ‘Tell me, tell me about your pain, show me your grief. I want to feel your anguish. I want to be with you. I want to listen to your story” (p. 47)
This is community elevated to the level of the divine—the Risen Christ joining the journey so that we see it from a new perspective. We walk together—with each other—and with Christ. This theme is so important that we will continue to explore it a while longer.