Face Life Head-On
Transfiguration Sunday. Transfiguration? It's a whole new word. It's a divine word and it's fitting because the story of Jesus' transfiguration is a holy scene. It's an experience of the divine. But it's also a deeply relatable moment of humanity. The scene comes just a few days after Peter reprimands Jesus and tells him there is no way he can be allowed to suffer and die on a cross. To which Jesus responds famously with, "Get behind me, Satan." And this is important to remember as we press forward because it's just a few days later when this gospel takes place and Peter is on the mountain with Jesus and says, "Hey, why don't we stay here? I'll even pitch the tents." Peter is nothing if not persistent. And I admire him for it. Because in many ways, Peter is saying to Jesus a second time, but in a much softer way, "Let's forget about all that hard stuff you said that was coming, and let's stay here." Let's stay in what must have been one of the most incredible and beautiful and even maybe the happiest moment of Peter's life.
It makes me wonder, has life ever presented you with a moment or a period that was so good you didn't want it to end? Or more to the point, has your life ever been so good but circumstances demanded that you trade something so good for something far closer to terrible? And you desperately didn't want to make that trade? I have. And my guess is you probably have too. I can still hear myself saying, "Please, God. No. Please. I don't want this period to end. It's too good. And the next adventure you have before me looks something I have exactly no interest in experiencing."
Amazingly, my mind actually goes to my wedding day. I remember the moment after receiving communion and looking out at all the people there. All the people I loved most on this earth and thinking, "This is the closest to heaven I have ever been." And that moment, it came right after our vows. Our vows when we recognize that our life together is going to be a mystery ride. One where we don't know the how or the when but we know the what. We know there will be health and sickness. There will be good and bad. There will be happiness and suffering. And there will be life and death. So why would I want to trade the glory of that earthly taste of heaven for some mysterious cocktail of potentially devastating future events? No. Like Peter, I wanted to pitch my tent there with my wife and my family and my friends and God in that beautiful country church. But that's not how life works, is it? And that's not how the Holy Spirit operates. Sometimes I wish the Holy Spirit would move a whole lot sooner and quicker than he does and sometimes I want the Holy Spirit to just hit the snooze button on change and let me stay exactly as I am in the comfort of the moment. But the Holy Spirit disrupts and relieves. The Holy Spirit pokes and inspires. But the Holy Spirit always does that to push us forward. To meet the destiny that's before us with courage and with faith.
Now, Peter, he's not the only one who has a really human experience at the Transfiguration. Jesus does too. In Luke's telling of the Transfiguration, he's actually the only one who says that Jesus went up to the mountain specifically to pray. Jesus went to pray and in that prayer, we get a glimpse of his humanity. Because he was about to face the most difficult eight days anyone who has ever walked the face of the earth ever had to endure. And what did he do? Did he distract himself? Did he numb his feelings or his fear? Nope. He confronted it in prayer. I think sometimes we believe that the only reason someone's going to go to pray is to get something they need. Or to hear instructions on what they're supposed to do in a certain situation. Or with a certain decision. And while those are certainly good reasons to go pray and God answers those types of prayers, it isn't the only reason. Sometimes God asks us to do something we otherwise wouldn't do in a million years because it's hard. And it's painful. And we aren't sure we have it in us to endure what lays before us. And sometimes - and maybe this is just me but sometimes in these types of situations, I delay going to God because I'm scared he might give me a hard time for being scared. Or for not wanting to do the thing he's asking me to do. But Jesus' time of prayer says something very different. It says in those moments, God wants to encourage us. He wants to encourage us by reminding us who we are. His beloved children.
I want you to think for a moment. You can close your eyes it will help. Think for a moment of the person you most want to be proud of you. And now place yourself in the moment of your greatest self-doubt. And hear that person say, "Don't be afraid. I believe in you." That's why we pray. Life is hard. We don't get to hang on the mountain tops of life for very long and if we want to experience the joy of what's to come, sometimes we do have to endure the passion that lies before us. And in those moments, we don't just want prayer, we need prayer. Because we need to hear God tell us that he believes in us. That we can do it. That we're made for that moment. That we're loved no matter what. So whatever's before you, go find your mountain. Go to your God and let his belief in you give you the encouragement you need to embrace whatever lies before you.