Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to the Walk to Emmaus. I was a little apprehensive going in, but as my amazing cousin Ashley, who sponsored me, kept saying, “Amy, if you survived three years of seminary, you can survive three days of this.” So, I went.
Now, let me just preface what I’m about to say next:
- I went into this experience Wednesday with a positive attitude and open heart.
- If you are one of those people who thinks the Walk to Emmaus is the best thing since peanut butter and chocolate then you might not want to read this post.
- Nothing I say in this post is meant to offend or be hurtful. It is the honest reflection of my experience, and I hope that whoever reads this will see Truth and love in what I am saying.
As people have asked me how my Walk was, I have simply responded with “It was good.” Don’t get me wrong, the end result was good, but for the most part it was frustrating, annoying, weird, and made me angry. It took me almost the entire Walk to get over all of the things that kept me from spending time with my Father, and it shouldn’t have been that way. I was turned off at many points during the weekend, and if I hadn’t come into this weekend rooted deeply in my faith and understanding of Christ, I probably would have run screaming.
I will get into that later, but first let me say what was good about the weekend. (I promise I will not ruin any of the “surprises” during this post, for those of you who have not gone to Emmaus)
- The speakers were amazing. It was so encouraging to hear how God has worked in the lives of real people through their real pain, brokenness and victories. I wish I could have bottled some of those stories up and carried them with me, because my notes are just not enough.
- The community I was able to build with my table and other women during the weekend, and the community that will hopefully continue to grow. It was so great to spend time with real women, sharing wisdom, laughter, struggles, tears, and just being women. My table leaders were amazing! I am so thankful, especially for my assistant table leader. She helped me more than I think she realizes.
- The few quiet moments I was able to spend one on one with my Father. It was hard to find those moments, even when we had to be silent, but it was then that He really spoke truth and love into my heart. If those few moments were all I got from the weekend, that is enough.
- The people who served in the background. You guys are rockstars, and I am so thankful for how you emptied yourselves (and are always emptying yourselves) to serve people who you don’t even know. And, I don’t know who made up my bed that first night, but that was wonderful.
Okay, now on to what wasn’t so great about this weekend. I am not going to discuss the crazy bell ringing, not having a cell phone or knowing the time, or even the cold showers. Those things aren’t that important in the larger picture of my experience. Also, let me just say that my criticisms come from a heart of wanting the Walk to Emmaus to be an experience that can really reach people in an relevant and authentic way.
- My first impression. Wednesday night I wanted to run screaming. I figured out that night that they take your cell phones away, so you won’t call up your sponsor and get them to come pick you up and take you home. That’s what I want to do. One of the leaders said Wednesday night “Don’t judge your Walk by Wednesday night, or Thursday, or Friday, or any specific experience, but wait until the close on Saturday and judge your walk as a complete experience. This is what I have to say to that…If you don’t want me to judge my experience by my first impression, then give me a good first impression. My first impression was that I was being initiated into some weird “Christian” cult (and, I’m not sure that my impression changed until the very end on Saturday). I believe that as Christians we are called to represent Christ with truth and excellence, and I did not see that in the weekend.
- Following a script. Life doesn’t follow a script. Jesus didn’t follow a script. And the original walk to Emmaus with the men and Jesus definitely didn’t follow a script. Maybe it’s so everyone can have the same experience, but come on, no one ever has the same experience. I felt like I was being read to the entire weekend, and it seemed to suck so much life out of the stories and experiences shared. Christ came to bring us LIFE not a script.
- The music. Maybe I’m a music snob, but this goes back to representing Christ with excellence and relevance. The guy who led our music was a good musician, but wasn’t the best worship leader. And, don’t get me started on song selection. I’m sure most of the women there loved the songs we sang, but then most of them grew up singing those songs and still sing those songs in their churches. The truth of the matter is that culture is changing, and if the leadership of the Walk to Emmaus wants to reach the generations that will be coming on walks in just a few short years, they need to update their worship and make it more relevant. You will never reach the next generations effectively with what is being done now.
- Emotionalism and Misrepresentation. Okay, there was an experience during the weekend (I won’t give details) that was orchestrated to give us a “vision of heaven.” I just need to be clear in my saying that this was a complete misrepresentation of Heaven. My first thought in entering this experience was that I was entering a cult sacrifice (and I began to wonder if no one told me about it because I was the sacrifice), and the second was, “If this is what Heaven is going to be like, then I don’t want to go there.” It made me so angry, because in my limited understanding of Heaven, we will get to fellowship with other believers and see the face of God. That did not happen. There were also some experiences that were emotionally charged in a way that made me uncomfortable. I don’t need someone to play on my emotions to get me to give things over to God. His whispering in my heart is enough. So many times I just wanted to scream, “If all of you would get out of the way, maybe I could actually experience God.”
- Two words: singing and swaying
- Let me just give a last bit of advice. Not every person who goes on the Walk to Emmaus is going to want to “play the game.” Don’t make her feel guilty for it. Love her anyway.
So, the question is left, “What did I get out of the weekend?”
- I realized how grateful I am to be a part of a church that loves people, has amazing community, and is committed to being relevant and authentic. I love my church!
- Community is vital.
- He is faithful, and I must be faithful to Him. Because, after all, He is the One in control.
- God loves me in a amazingly real way. I can’t comprehend it. I haven’t been open to His love for so long, and if I can let Him love me, maybe I can learn to love myself. And, His love will overflow onto other people.
There you go.