Broken Hearts

A path of no returnEaster is the season of broken and burning hearts. And as Easter people, we are constantly held in the tension between grief and glory, despair and hope. It’s the sacred space of movement and stillness, speaking and listening, knowing and being known, trusting and being trusted. It’s coming into and going out from. It’s having our hearts broken wide open and then the burning awareness and desire to share our experience.

That’s what we see in one of my favorite Scripture passages, commonly known as the walk to (and from) Emmaus.

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. ~ Luke 24:13-35

Two friends are walking together and talking about their friend’s unexpected death, trying to piece together and make sense of the unbelievable chain of events. Someone sees them so engrossed in conversation and asks what it is they’re talking about. Stunned that he doesn’t seem to know the biggest news story that just happened, they fill him in on what they know … which is a bit about what they’ve seen and a lot from what they’ve heard from others. 

I love this passage because it is so real. Tucked in the middle of a long paragraph is an honest revelation that is almost missed: but we had hoped. Can’t you hear the heart-wrenching heartbreak in that phrase? All the possibilities, all the hopes vanquished in an awful turn of events. We know that kind of heartbreak.

We also know that too often that kind of heartbreak is glossed over or the subject is changed. Someone shares her disappointment in being passed over for a promotion and is told at least she has a job. Someone reveals she had a miscarriage and is told that lots of women have miscarriages and still get pregnant. Someone tells his friend he thinks his wife is having an affair and is told he must still honor his marriage vows. We listen and then move on to resolve the conflict as if what was hoped for is a problem to be solved.

It’s also that kind of heartbreak that prepares us for what is to come. But first we must be allowed to grieve for the hope that was lost. People don’t need to be reminded of their brokenness or coerced into admitting their failures. That’s just part of being human. What they do need is to be invited and allowed to grieve those lost hopes – that the cancer came back, that job did not come through, that the addiction wasn’t overcome, that the loved one died.

As we move through the grief and lost hope, Jesus reveals to us the God who holds fast to us through all the details and depth of our broken heartedness. Only then can we be open to and receive the path God has created and prepared for us. We hear as we are able and when we are able. And then we trust the Spirit to set our hearts on fire in her own good time.


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