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Are you there for me?

Welcome to my blog. This is my very first entry and I plan to write regularly.

The Gospel reading from the third Sunday of Easter is taken from the Gospel of Luke 24:13-35, which records the story on the Road to Emmaus, one of the apparitions of the Risen Christ. In that story, we found two disciples who were on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. This happened three days after Jesus’ crucifixion and death. Their hearts were heavy, full with grief, fear, and disappointment. They had hoped Jesus would be “the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). They were downcast and feeling so hopeless. Their eyes, minds, and heart focused on the fact that their Redeemer died… and their hope died with Him. In their distress, Jesus came to them, as if to say, “I am here for you.” However, so deep was their grief, that the Scriptures say, “their eyes were kept from recognizing Him” (Luke 24:16). They told Jesus all what they saw and learned: the condemnation, the crucifixion, their shattered hope, and the empty tomb that some women saw earlier.

On the Road to Emmaus a painting by Carole Foret
On the Road to Emmaus – a painting by Carole Foret
Jesus, then, showed them the master plan, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets …” (Luke 24:27). Jesus opened the map, the pattern of how everything in the Old Testament was pointing towards Him. Once, they saw the map, the disciples started to have hope, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). After Jesus put the hope back in their hopeless hearts, He broke the bread and “the disciples’ eyes were opened and they recognized Him.” They experienced healing! After that transformation, the disciples went back to Jerusalem, though it’s very late already, to share the good news with the apostles. O what a change!

This story reminds me of couples in crisis who come to my office. Fight after fight have left them hopeless and in distress. Everything can be a source of quarrel: money, kids, in-laws, vacation, even pets. They had high hopes when they entered the marriage: they would be happy forever; they would love and treasure each other. Where did that hope go? Now they cannot even stand each other. What makes all the arguments and fights even more painful is they still love each other. Their hearts were heavy, full with grief, fear, and disappointment. Are we going to live like this forever? Am I going to feel lonely for the rest of my life? The couple’s eyes, minds, and heart focus on the fact that their relationship is dying and their hope is dying with it.

Thank God for the Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) that has successfully helped such couples by giving them a map or pattern of their relationship. EFT, developed by Sue Johnson, is based on John Bowlby’s attachment theory. It recognizes the human being’s intrinsic need of connection and intimacy to their attachment figure. The attachment figure often is parent (for a child), spouse, best friend, etc. For us, Christians, we also have God, our unparalleled attachment figure (that calls for another blog post 😊). Regardless of our age, the need for connection and intimacy remains. We are built for physical and emotional closeness. That need is even more prominent when we are in distress, e.g. experiencing threat, pain, or uncertainty. On the other hand, knowing with certainty that our attachment figure is dependable can calm our nervous system and gives us a sense of comfort and security.

Couples in unhealthy relationship tend to feel insecure because they lose the sense of comfort and security from their partner. They focus on the content of their fight, which can be anything under the sun, but tend to lose sight of their deepest need, that is the connection and emotional intimacy with their partner. On the outside, couples may yell at each other or give each other a silent treatment, one may pursue and the other withdraw. However, in the inside, they ask over and over, “Are you there for me when I need you?”, “Are you accessible to me when I come to you?”, “Are you responsive when I talk to you?”, “Are you emotionally engaged when I’m being vulnerable with you?” EFT helps couples to see the pattern of their interaction. It shows couples their deepest longing and fear. It teaches couples to be emotionally open to each other. It helps couple to restore their hope which leads to healing. I’m very grateful that I have EFT in my toolbox. By the grace of God, I use it to help couples who seek my professional help. Together we will see the unhealthy pattern in their relationship so that we can work on it.
God’s grace is there for those couples just like He was there for the distressed disciples on the road to Emmaus. I am there for these couples, and I hope they will be there for each other too when one asks the other, “Are you there for me?”