Someone forgot to remind the weather it's November in Ohio. High of 70 degrees yesterday and 75 degrees today with the meteorologists' promises (We know how that goes!) of more to come throughout the week.
While blissful in its deferring of cold temperatures and bone-chilling winds, the uncharacteristic warm air creates havoc with plans to dress a fifth grader. Early morning cold gives way to unnatural heat quickly, so long sleeves, gloves and coats can seem right at 6:30 am and ridiculous at 2 pm.
Nonetheless, I'm grateful for the blessing. This morning it even made national news; the ticker tape across the bottom of the screen identified "unseasonably warm" weather and its impending effects on the rest of the month. That phrase captured my attention: unseasonably warm. It had already been on my mind before I saw the news, but when the television screen started replaying my own thoughts, I stopped and gave pause. Why does that speak so loudly to me?
The only connection I could make at the time -- and still am -- is the familiar rhythm of that phrase with another "warm front" I read about in Scripture: "They began telling each other how their hearts had felt strangely warm as He [Jesus] talked with them and explained the Scriptures during the walk down the road" (Luke 24:32, The Living Bible). When the weather is warm outside, and it shouldn't be, based on the season of the year and typical weather patterns, any deviation from the norm is "strange." This is the same word that two of Jesus' followers used to describe how they felt when Jesus was walking with them on the road to Emmaus, yet they did not recognize who He was.
I don't remember the first time I read or heard this story in Luke's gospel; it was many years ago in my childhood, I'm sure. However, in my adult years, I've always come away from the Emmaus story with a particular prayer on my heart, one that I pray regularly. It goes something like this: Lord, help me know you "on the road" to wherever I'm going, and not just when I get there.
I cannot imagine what it must have been like to walk and talk with Jesus, to literally follow Him as He went about preaching and teaching and healing and turning the Kingdom of God upside down for people. But even as I try to imagine that, I can't fathom what it was to have known Him before His death, and not to know Him after. These followers were intimately familiar with Jesus, the same one who they thought was the Messiah, and yet not able to recognize Him when He was with them again.
They're not the only ones. Mary didn't know Him in the garden, at least not immediately. She thought He was a gardener until He spoke to her. Luke tells us these men were even "prevented" from realizing it was Jesus. At least until the breaking of the bread. Now that's what I call "holy hindsight."
If I'm honest, I have holy hindsight a lot. I can look back on a journey often and see the signposts that show evidence of the Lord's presence. I can often reflect on a challenging season I've been through and see where God was working for my good. But I believe there are times when I may miss Him in the midst of my circumstances, and I so desperately want to see Him then too.
I can feel the disappointment of these men as the bread is broken and they finally see it's Jesus, only for Him to disappear in the same moment. They're looking at each other in astonishment -- Did you see what I saw? -- and then wracking their brains trying to figure out how they missed it: :“Weren’t our hearts ablaze within us while He was talking with us on the road...?" (HCSB). I know I've felt the same things -- a stirring, a wondering, an unseasonably warm moment in my heart -- and still failed to see Jesus on the road.
So I'm praying more fervently these days. Lord, help me know you "on the road" to wherever I'm going. Don't let me miss the warm front when it comes. (Maybe, at my age, I could start calling them "holy hot flashes"?) I understand that sometimes the revelation comes at the end of the journey because God chooses it to be so, but oftentimes my oblivion is driven by my own ignorance and self-centeredness. I don't want to be so focused on myself that I miss the Messiah moment.
Don't get me wrong. Any time I get a glimpse of the holy in the mundane, I'm thankful. If anything, not thankful enough, but I'm exceedingly grateful to acknowledge that God is with me, whether I sense Him with me or not. Still, my prayer is that I'm not so wrapped up in my situation that I miss the times He is literally as close as my next breath and speaking to me. I welcome the "strange warmth" and hope I'll relish it as much as I am right now.
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Jesus follower. Wife. Mom. Daughter. Friend. Pastor. Learner.