We all want an experience. Something we can hold on to. Something that will hold on to us when darkness falls, when we are lost in wilderness. Some light we can point to, recounting its brilliance to others, to convince them of our faith.
We want to make that experience last and last. We want to stay on the mountaintop forever. We want to stay in the place where we have encountered God.
When Jesus was transfigured on the mountain in front of his three closest friends, their first reaction was this exactly [Matt. 17:1-9]. Peter wanted to pitch tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah up there. He wanted to stay--or at least make them stay.
Somewhere in his mind, Peter knew he'd have to go back down the mountain at some point.
But maybe, just maybe, he could recreate this feeling, this miracle again if he could just keep these revelations up there.
But even while Peter was suggesting his plan, his excitement turned to fear. Upon hearing the audible voice of God, revealing Jesus to be God's own Beloved Son, the disciples were frightened.
Perhaps the mountaintop is a bit too close of an encounter with God.
Perhaps we are more comfortable not remaining in the presence of God for too long.
Perhaps what we truly want is flashes of light in our world of shadow.
"Do not be afraid."The familiar divine message to humanity throughout scripture.
We desire closeness with God. We want to feel it intensely. We want nothing to break that most intimate of connections.
Until we can't take it anymore.
Something calls us away from the mountaintop. Distractions come in all shapes and forms. Even now, while I feel this truth resonate deep within me, I open another tab on my browser.
My personality is such that my mind opens new tabs all the time. It darts here and there. It holds on to so much information at one time.
On a mountaintop, in the presence of God, my mind finds freedom from its frenetic paces.
And I become uncomfortable with all that freedom from the noise. I grow fidgety in the silence, in the stillness.
And yet, God draws me in, by the heart.
My mind is set free from all of its knowing. I am called to know only one thing in my heart: "Be still and know that I am God."[Psalm 46:10]
When I must return from my time of prayer, from my time away, from my time spent on the mountain in the company of God and the prophets, and go back to "real life," how do I carry the experience on?
Peter, like we all do, wanted to shelve it. If we remember where we put God and can convince God to stay there, we could visit any time we wanted. We could relive the mountaintop experience again and again. We could make it last. We could contain--and therefore, control--God.
There we are again. Our minds racing to find a solution to a problem that does not exist yet.
But then, we look up. The revelation is over. The transfiguration has ended.
We are left with God's voice on our ears: "Listen to [my Son]."
And the Son of God tells us, "Get up and do not be afraid."
We are led down the mountain, back to the places in which we live and work and play.
But we are being led. We are not left alone once we leave the bright lights and the holy landscape of the mountaintop.
We make the experience last when we acknowledge the presence of God in all moments and in all things, even in the valley of the shadow of death.