Jesus as Guide
The images and observations on this page encourage us to look at pilgrims through the eyes of Jesus and as guides and companions to reflect and embody his ways.
Self-giving and self-emptying Love
In the early stages of our guiding and companioning it can seem risky to bring our authentic, whole self into a relationship with a pilgrim, but this self-giving and other-receiving love mirrors the self-emptying of our Master Guide, Jesus (Philippians 2). He shows us how to put our own concerns and needs aside to focus our attention on where the pilgrim is at that particular moment in time. This recalls the moment when the resurrected Jesus meets two downcast pilgrims on the road to Emmaus and asks, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” One responds, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”
In spite of all that Jesus has just been through, he lays it aside in order to open unlimited space for them. In this incredible gesture of self-emptying, he only uses two words: “What things?” (Luke 24:17–19, NRSV).
Resistance and grace
Who do we see as we ask the Holy Spirit for the eyes of Jesus as the guide? Do we discern a woman who is almost completely closed, heavily protected and exerting great energy to hold together the basic residue of her integrity? We might notice a self-protective and defensive stance.
We also notice how constrained and entangled she is, living on the restrictive rim of her existence. Through her wounding and choices, her living space has contracted; her life-giving soul faculties are experiencing neglect; she has become alienated from many people in her community and also from her inner-self.
Yet if we move our position closer to the gentle and humble heart of the guide, Jesus, we encounter her wounded and fragile heart. Beneath the many layers of protection is a cry for someone to come alongside to save her from her oppressive circumstances, to save her from herself.
Patiently and gently, the Guide loves his way through the many external and internal barriers that for so long have bound and entangled this woman’s heart, cooperating with the unforced movements of grace that loosen the soil at the base of these barriers.
As their eyes meet, she thirsts for One whom she had hardly dared to believe would come.
As Gideon’s guide edged closer to Gideon’s transformed response, he witnessed an active, two-sided interchange of love between this young pilgrim and Jesus. By attending to Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?” Gideon had exchanged self-love and self-preservation for love of God and love of neighbor.
In the reciprocity of this embrace—Gideon’s love for Jesus and Jesus’ love for Gideon—the fullness of Gideon’s lived experience, including his humiliation and his shame, had been gathered together and transformed into deeper life, an experience already enacted by Jesus through the reciprocal love he shared with his Father. This embrace of unity, spaciousness, and freedom was extended to Gideon, transforming all the daily experiences that might deflate, fragment, wound, or destabilize him into places of growth and fullness. In the embrace of this love relationship, Gideon was becoming more and more like the Jesus he loved. What a mystery! (Guiding Gideon, 132).
Joy and pain
In prayerfully reflecting on her guiding and companioning the guide is often drawn to the gospel account of Mary anointing Jesus. Though Mary’s action speaks of death, there is the knowing that a resurrection morning will follow. As an experienced guide her encounters with pilgrims has been marked by many such deaths and resurrections. Those closest to her are witnessing untiring service, offering her person as Christ’s broken bread. Her self-giving and other-receiving love is offered as his outpoured wine—a fragrant offering poured over the feet of her crucified and risen Lord. She treasures Mary’s act of extravagance, abandonment and freedom. This is what it means for her to guide and companion in the way of Jesus. It is Jesus who leads her into solidarity with the joys and pains of pilgrims. It is Jesus who enlivens her heart to sing for joy to the living God.