When they came to Emmaus, [Jesus] acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?” (Luke 24:28-32, CEB translation)
Cathy looked out the window of the airplane and practically squealed with delight.
“I hate this part,” I said, as we got ready to drop through the clouds. “Do you want to know why I hate this part?”
“No,” she said. “No. There is enough fear in the world right now. Why would I want to take a place of joy and turn it into a space of fear? Don’t tell me. Let me have this joy.” Then from several rows up, we heard a small child cry out, “Are we in the clouds, Momma?” and just start laughing. And Cathy looked at me, all this glee on her face, and she laughed just like the giddy little girl.
That is just one of the reasons I love traveling with Cathy.
On the surface, we are not compatible travel companions. In the first place, she likes to dictate what I do with my music when I am driving. No one dictates my music when I am driving. One of the few rules in my car is that the driver picks the music. She is adamant. But you don’t get to be adamant in my car about my music.
Also, she leaves for the airport later than I want to leave. This time, we barely made our flight. She had time to go to the bathroom while I watched our stuff. I did not. I griped about the tight timeframe for the entire first leg of the trip. She told me I better lay off, we had made it. I then explained to her that I had spent 2 years as a travel agent and 5 years as a study abroad advisor, and I spent too many hours of my life cleaning up messes for people who had arrived too late to the airport. She needed to understand that about me. She also would be wise to understand that I picked up a nickname as a result of that training: trip nazi. As my husband says, traveling with Michelle is not a vacation; it’s a trip.
So considering our incompatibility, why do I love traveling with her? If you had ever met Cathy, you would know. Then the question would be, why would I not travel with her?
On this trip, I described her as a perfect blend of Southern aristocracy and tomboy playing in the dirt. She has this unbelievable gift with people that flows from her hospitality and authenticity. On our 20 minute trip from the hotel to the airport this time, she learned all about how our driver’s first wife had died in her late 20’s as a result of the 3 Mile Island catastrophe. I had learned of our close proximity to 3 Mile Island as we flew in. I never heard the human story behind it. Cathy did.
It is her undeniable woo, her boundless curiosity, and her love for all God’s people that makes traveling with her a much richer experience. You learn so much more about the world around you because you learn so much more about the people around you.
Her uncapped joy is contagious, and it also allows me to loosen up. To occasionally ignore my overly serious traveler self. To let trip nazi die. So much so that we once took off on a trip and drove several miles with the back door of the minivan we were driving wide open and waving to the world. As for the elevator in Memphis, I have never successfully told that story because I cannot tell it coherently through all the laughing. We have laughed so much together as we have bumbled through all our adventures in new places that we heal whatever ails us in that moment. And then we have also cried together. Cried at exhaustion. Cried at the sometimes painful stories we hear. Cried in frustration that we just can’t seem to do exactly what it is we feel Jesus is calling us to do. Our work is hard. Rewarding, no doubt, but hard. We till a lot of ground, but so rarely get to stick around and see if crops grow. There is a great deal of walking on faith in all the places that we walk together.
Which is what has me thinking about these two people walking on the road to Emmaus. You know, in the Holy Land they aren’t 100% sure what village is being called Emmaus here. According to the CEB translation, wherever it was it was about 7 miles from Jerusalem. Considering what was going on, however, that could have been a very long 7 miles. The two disciples explain to the third man who has joined them (who turns out to be Jesus) that they had these hopes that Jesus would redeem Israel, but then he was crucified, but then to add to the confusion some of the women have proclaimed that Jesus was alive again. They are on this road, and they have a destination, but honestly they don’t know where they are headed.
I have found myself on such a road from time to time in my life. The traveling companions you take with you are crucial on those roads. You need people who make you laugh. You need people who will struggle through the tough questions with you. You need people who sometimes are just as confused as you are, but who sometimes have moments of clarity and vision and wisdom that help you take more steps in the right direction. You need people who will raise you up to the level of royalty, but who will also get down in the dirt with you. You need someone who will refuse to let you add fear where there should be joy. And you definitely need someone who will listen to your story.
And that’s why I love traveling down that road with Cathy.
This morning, as the sun was fighting through the storm clouds and I was driving Cathy home from the airport, she took video of my dashboard Jesus dancing while I was singing with my music. She sent it to friends and said, “That’s why I love traveling with Michelle. You always have Jesus with you.” But for me, that’s why I love traveling with her, because she always brings Jesus with her. In truth, it is in all the ways we break the bread of life together as we travel down our roads to Emmaus that we suddenly see Christ. It is in the misadventures and the detours and the nearly missed flights that we experience life, that our hearts catch fire, and that we know we are loved. And we see Jesus because we are traveling together.
And so, on rare occasion, I change the music in my car. Because she is adamant about it. And I am adamant about having her along for the ride, wherever the road ends up taking us.