Sheila Fabricant Linn speaks of this Emmaus moment and the moment when the two disciples memories are healed:
When Jesus joined the depressed disciples on the road to Emmaus, the disciples’ hearts were filled with grief and disappointment from their hurtful memories of Jesus’ death. As they shared the events of the previous three days, Jesus listened and lovingly responded to each of the ways they felt hurt. Eventually the disciples became so full of love that they could forgive Jesus, themselves, and all who had hurt them. The disciples traded their depressed hearts for Jesus’ joyful, loving heart. When they left Jesus, their own hearts were ‘burning within them.’ In healing a memory, we share our heart with Jesus and take on his loving heart until we can see the past in a whole new way, with Jesus’ vision. By the time the disciples arrived at Emmaus, the greatest tragedy of their lives had been transformed into the greatest gift for loving as they joyfully announced to those who still grieved, ‘The Lord has been raised!’ (1)
As I’ve been reading the mystics, I’ve been considering what to do with memory. John of the Cross talks about memory as the seedbed of the imagination. It is because of our memories that we can imagine, and it is our imagination that helps us extend beyond our limited selves and attempt to see the world as God sees it. But not all memories are good – many are quite bad. And those bad memories may make us shy away from or even angrily reject our pasts. These memories must be redeemed if we’re to be healed. Sometimes we can participate in this healing by confessing our wrongs and seeking reconciliation. But sometimes that healing is a miracle.
For me, the most miraculous healing of memory came when I received a letter from a stranger. Somehow she had found a poetry book that I and a friend had put together in high school, and my adolescent poetry had spoken to her. It didn’t take me long to realize that she was the daughter of an ex-girlfriend, someone who had hurt me deeply in my youth. I was still carrying a wound, but this letter from her daughter brought me back in touch with her, and in our correspondence this ex-girlfriend apologized for hurting me, and explained the adolescent confusion that had led her to do so. My memory was changed. I had been blaming myself for the end of that relationship, as much as I blamed her. And I was, in certain ways, deeply to blame. But so was she, and once we had found each other again, she was the one who was brave enough to ask for forgiveness and reconciliation. This strange set of circumstances resurrected the past – it didn’t simply bring it back to life, it healed it, gave it new life, turned it into something that could feed my spirit instead of shaming me. This ex-girlfriend, who isn’t a believer, still managed to be Christ to me as I walked my own road to Emmaus.
It’s when we experience these strange and unexpected moments of healing that we’re able to imagine that the entire world can be healed, that resurrection can come to everything. More, that we can give healing to others by reconciling the past to the present, by being honest about who we were and asking for forgiveness. This humility, this willingness to reconcile, is a blessing to others – it’s a way in which we bless others through our weakness, and through it shame is transformed into hope, fear is transformed into joy, ego is transformed into love.
- Don’t Forgive Too Soon: Extending the Two Hands That Heal, By Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, Matthew Linn