Why is it so hard to trust yourself?
Yesterday we heard the story of the two forlorn disciples on the Emmaus Road—who had a vivid, astonishing experience of the risen Christ, only to lose it the next moment. In Luke’s account, as soon as they recognize Christ, he “vanished from their sight.”
That vanishing reminds us that all our moments of enlightenment are fleeting. But it also tells us something critical about the way in which God is present to us. Christ “vanishes” because his physical presence is now more a distraction than a gift. The resurrection completes the morphing of Jesus into the Christ. Whereas before, the divine presence had been located in one, specific, particular person—Jesus of Nazareth—now that presence is universalized in the Christ.
The risen Christ knows that every human heart has now been imbedded with the divine Spirit. All the power and light of God is within these two disheartened disciples, and if he sticks around any longer they will still try to relate in the old way, and not be forced to draw on the power within them.
I’ll never forget when we dropped our first daughter off at college. It’s August in Ohio, and the whole campus is set up to receive and orient these freshmen. We had picnics and lots of time for parents to ask all their obnoxious questions. We had a reception at the president’s home, and finally a great academic procession and Convocation to officially usher these young scholars into the academy. And then all the parents were told to Go Home. The little program says, “At this time all parents must leave.” And all the parents . . . hovered. I tell you, they almost had to get campus security to tell all of us over-protective parents: “We mean it. Get off this campus and leave your poor child alone!” Why? Because it’s time. Nothing good will happen now if we stay.
Are we afraid? Naturally. Have these kids learned everything we wanted to teach them? Of course not. Will they make mistakes? Yes. And will they be ok? Yes—but only if we leave.
Our children will only discover their own gifts and abilities if they are left alone—even if we (and, at times, they) feel like we can’t be parted. You know this dynamic. We don’t find out what we’ve got inside until the steady hand falls away from the bicycle seat, until we’re dropped off at sleep away camp or boarding school, until we’re given an empty sales desk and a telephone and someone says, “Good luck” and walks out. What feels like abandonment is actually empowerment.
The Emmaus message is: trust the Presence within. You already have everything you need. Why is that so hard to trust? Why do we always feel like we need the permission or approval of other, more “important” people? Why do we trust the insights and thoughts of others, but discount or doubt our own?