From October 11th through 14th, I attended the 62nd edition of the Southern New England Walk to Emmaus. Like running a marathon or making love, it was a life-changing event that can be described–but never adequately–to those who have not been through it. (Those of a certain age will recall the Monty Python skit: “What’s it Like?” which I completely failed to grasp as a child.) Like those things, “the walk” may not be for everyone, although it is open to all who seek truth.
My best sound-byte attempts to describe “the walk”: an eye-opening, course-changing, ‘epiphany’ experience; a weekend in heaven; an intellectual ‘deep-dive’ into the core elements of Christian doctrine and life; a roller coaster ride of emotion; a thunderstorm of abundant love raining down; a series of fifteen powerful testimonies about how God changes lives; a glimpse of the grace of God in the form of twenty-two amazing wise men who–despite some initial apprehensions–I now feel perfectly comfortable calling ‘brothers’.
The Walk to Emmaus is not a fraternity (secret or otherwise). It is not a church. It is simply a non-denominational “turbo-charger” to the Christian walk for those who are seeking (or called) to that kind of thing.
Here’s the back story to why I felt called to go on “the walk” (when a good friend invited me) and why, having done it, I feel confirmed in the correctness of that discernment.
The evening of October 11th, 2005, my brother Ed slipped into unconsciousness on his deathbed.
The evening of October 11th, 2007, I arrived at the walk and was greeted with level of guileless warmth and transparency that was at first unnerving. I later came to see that it was true and enduring. Nobody was acting. Nobody was recruiting me into anything or asking for money. They were just giving back after having had their lives changed many years ago. In hindsight, that evening is when I began to slip into new consciousness. (Thus this blog!)
On October 12th, 2005, our family began to despair, thinking it would be only hours until Ed’s death.
One year later, on October 12th, 2006, I was called to make a sales presentation at Brown University. Ed had graduated from Brown. He absolutely loved it there. I had not been back to campus since attending his graduation many years earlier. The sales presentation was a real “bluebird”. I.e., the lead had come completely out of nowhere via a long and improbable set of circumstances. I do no marketing whatsoever to the higher education market. Yet everything said this lead was solid. I felt I ought to pursue it. The coincidence of the date vis a vis a return to my brother’s alma mater was not lost on me–in fact it seemed eerie–yet I had no idea what it meant.
So that morning, feeling that God had something up His sleeve for me, I headed south, crossed the Rhode Island border, got off Route 95 just north of Providence and promptly got lost. Not badly mind you, but in hindsight I realized that that had helped to set up for what came next. Once I finally got re-oriented, it became clear that my best route to the Brown campus would be down Hope St. (I kid you not: HOPE Street. Hello!)
All of the traffic lights seemed to be in my favor: green, green, green, green. Then, at the corner of Rochambeau Avenue, it just so happened that mine was the first car caught up as the light turned red. I had a clear view across the intersection.
Something told me to look up and there, just across and to my right I noticed a sign on the lawn of what I would later learn was the Mount Hope Community Baptist Church. It read: “GOD WILL GIVE BACK TO YOU MORE THAN YOU HAVE LOST”. Double Hello!! I sat bolt upright, startled at the directness of this message, obviously from God. I tucked it away, figuring He’d cash that check for me in heaven someday.
Exactly one year later, on October 12th, 2007, God kept His promise. (I really shouldn’t sound so surprised, should I?) On that day, I began to bond with the twenty-two men and other supporters who would soon become my NEW brothers–in Christ. I remembered the sign: “God WILL give back to you more than you have lost.”
It’s a little like what made Babe Ruth great, though given the man’s personal life, all comparison’s with the deity should be taken with a grain of salt here. There is hitting home runs, and then there is pointing to a particular place on the wall of the ballpark and hitting a home run to precisely that point on the very next pitch. God delivered exactly as He said He would. He always does. God always keeps His promises. We don’t always hear or see the promise. We don’t always credit the delivery or its timing.
On October 13th, 2005, my family and I began a “long dark night of the soul” caring for Ed through his final hours.
On October 13th, 2007, we Emmaus ‘pilgrims’ were surprised by a part of the program that brought an amazing, loving light into the darkness. (I won’t give away the details–though they aren’t anything secret or out-of-the-mainstream.)
On October 14th, 2005, my brother passed from this life, into the hands of God.
On October 14th, 2007, I committed my life over to God’s service as a follower of Jesus Christ.
God is GOOD–a loving and powerful master-choreographer of events.