Your Grace is the Leading Light


Photo by Jeroen Wehkamp on Unsplash

As the sun trickles through my window with soft afternoon light, I meditate on all the ways your love has trickled into every crevice of my life.

Every place I think is too dark or scarred too deeply – you find your way in.

You are ever a gentleman; never forceful, never raucous, never rude.

You take my hand, and only when I am ready to give it up do you lead me ever so gently back into the light.

You find me in the back pew, or in my car, or any number of my hiding places. 

You, my deliverer, remind me that your grace reaches me even when I am most unworthy.

When I am at my ugliest, you are at your best.

Only then do I allow you to lead me in your full grandeur, and find my way home.

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Today

This morning is more difficult than most. I feel the full weight of seasonal depression press down on me with each step.

It felt like lifting two elephants out of bed when I swung my feet over the edge this morning.

Sometimes I sleep past my alarms: The light, the sound, the other light, and the other sound.

The sky is gray and the days are getting shorter.

My days on this Earth are getting shorter too.

As I stare down the barrel of, “31,” I find I have done little of significance with my days.

Some weeks sprint by, others trudge. This is a trudging week.

Anxiety abounds.

Some troubles truly legitimate; others I create out of my own capricious imagination.

God-willing, I have many healthy days ahead.

And God-willing, I’ll do more with them than fret.

What Does Love Look Like?

I am the curator and editor of the young adult devotional blog for a large branch of the Protestant church. I enjoy reading the spiritual insights from young people all across the globe. It helps me see the world and many times the Gospel itself, differently. I have many, “Hmm, I’ve never thought of it that way before,” moments.

And I love those moments. It means I’m still growing.

And then, when I turn to mainstream public domain photography for the images to accompany the devotions, I am sometimes quickly reminded how different our views are from that of the secular world.

I searched for, “love,” on a popular (and free) photography website. What came up in the results were pictures of hearts, flowers, and couples. So many couples. But that’s not what love looks like for me. What does love look like for you? Or more importantly, what should love look like for you?

Well, by now you’re surely thinking of the correct Sunday School answer to that question – Jesus. And you would be right. But what specifically about Jesus looks like love? Most people will not be asked to lay down their lives for a friend. So let’s look at some of the ways Jesus loved us leading up to the cross.

1.) Jesus was a teacher.

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” -1 Corinthians 13:6

When you have gained a piece of knowledge, practical or theoretical, if it is important enough you share it with people you care about. It may be as simple as, “Don’t drink that milk, it’s past the expiration date!” or, “The easiest way to get to downtown is by using this road instead of that one.” You get the idea. But it can also be big ways that you share knowledge that shows you care for someone. “I learned this in Sunday school (church, my daily devotion, etc.) and I’d like to share it with you.” “Do you know who Jesus is? I think it’s something we should talk about.”

Any time you share truth with a person or teaching them, you are showing them love just like Jesus did.

2.) Jesus was emotionally intelligent.

“[Love] It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” -1 Corinthians 13:5

When a person embarrasses others, only looks out for themselves, are quick to anger, and constantly bring up your past wrongdoings – it’s a sign of immaturity in their emotional development. To love others, you must first learn (and work out) your own emotional problems. When you love someone, you desire to bring the best version of yourself to the relationship. You don’t intentionally do anything to dishonor them, you keep their best interest and the interest of your relationship at the front of your mind. You don’t fly off the handle for no reason at the person you love. Your anger has an appropriate place and you express it in a way that doesn’t hurt you or anyone else. When the person you love hurts you, you don’t bring up all the times in the past that they have wronged you. You live in the moment, and you deal with that instance alone. Let’s face it, love hurts sometimes. We all, unfortunately, hurt each other. But if you make an active decision to love someone, you choose not to let past hurt undermine your relationship. Because let’s be honest, the only person that deserves to read us our list of lifetime sins on a daily basis, chose to die on a cross for us instead.

3.) Jesus was reliable.

“[Love] It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” -1 Corinthians 13:7

Those disciples were always getting into some mess, weren’t they? But they could always count on Jesus to calm the storm, feed the people, or a laundry list of other things. The disciples could always talk to him, and he would listen. Jesus kept the disciples out of harm’s way – even when they didn’t trust he would. His love was bigger than their fear. Jesus always came through for the disciples. (And for all of us for that matter.) He, “shows up,” to our relationship every day without fail. Because He is love, and LOVE NEVER FAILS.

I don’t write this post to discount the sacrifice that was made on the cross. Quite the contrary actually. I am so often enamored with the BIG thing Jesus has done for us that I rarely take the time to appreciate the smaller ways (which are by no means small) that Jesus showed us his love. Even if I didn’t know him as I do now, I would want to be his friend. Who wouldn’t?

Cowardly Disobedience

I stopped to get gas the other evening after my usual thirteen-hour work-day. I kept forgetting to stop this week and was nearly running on empty. I filled up at the pump and after, I did something I typically never do. I went in to buy a drink. I was minutes from home, but I was very thirsty from forgetting to drink at work that afternoon. So, I went in, made my selection, and approached the register. The young woman that greeted me was cheerful and polite. I replied in the same manner, asked her how she was, etc. I filled the air with pleasantries as I always do at any checkout because I know how difficult customer service work is in any employment environment and beyond that, it’s just the right thing to do.

The young lady’s coworker approached the register to help place my beverages in a plastic bag. With a wide smile, I inquired, “And how are you today?” She paused for a moment, and then tears welled up in the corner of her eyes. “Actually, not too good,” she said reluctantly. She continued on, “My boyfriend’s mother might die tonight. Something’s wrong with her bowels. Have you ever heard of anything like that? I’ve never even heard of that. I don’t even know what to do.” I asked her if they said her bowels were impacted. She nodded, “Yes, that’s the word they used. The last time I saw her it looked like she had shoved a pillow up under her shirt her stomach was so swollen. I don’t even know how to help.” I said gently, “That is a very painful condition. All you can do is just be there for your boyfriend and his family and see if there is anything they need. May I ask her name?” She told me her name was Mildred. And I said I would say a prayer for Mildred that evening. She thanked me, and I could sense the sincerity in her voice. I felt a deep, nagging, urge to ask her if I could pray with her right then and there. An urge I would’ve been unable to ignore or push past in my younger days. But that evening, in my elder-millennial cowardice, I didn’t even offer that up as I felt it might be inappropriate. So, I thanked both cashiers, and I walked out the door.

What has happened to me? Inappropriate? It is never inappropriate to offer God’s love to another individual. Ever. That nudging and nagging I felt was God – and I ignored Him. I still haven’t asked for forgiveness. Perhaps I feel like I am hiding from Him. Just like Adam and Eve in the Garden. “If He doesn’t see me, He won’t be as angry,” the child in me proclaims. While the grown-up side of me argues, “He sees all of you, all the time; even the ugly parts. And yet, He still loves you. So, fess up kid.” But still, the fact remains, I didn’t obey Him.

As long as I can remember, showing God’s love has never been comfortable when it’s done in a very big or real way. I have a terrible time talking to strangers about real things. I am polite and offer a friendly smile and a non-judgmental gaze. Over the years from listening to and observing other adults, I have developed a set number of phrases I am accustomed to using when speaking to strangers, almost like a script. It makes me appear normal and friendly. But just beyond that smile and those pleasantries is an anxiety-ridden and socially awkward girl afraid to look stupid or rude or be judged for even trying to be friendly. My mind goes blank when I’m nervous. To give you an idea of what I experience, it’s like sitting at the precipice of a huge roller coaster and getting stuck. When we went on mission trips I often relied on my mother’s gift of gab and confidence, while I smiled quietly beside her. She has a gift for being able to talk to others that I just wasn’t born with. She thinks of question after question to stay engaged, even when she’s not enjoying herself. She thinks of things I would never dream of asking. She is curious in a way that causes her to think of questions and enter into dialogue, while I am curious in a way that makes me silent. When I am really interested in something, I listen very hard.

But, back to the matter at hand. I was disobedient. My anxiety is no excuse. I missed an opportunity to offer God’s love to another human being – my sole responsibility (and every Christian’s) in this life since I have been filled with the Good News. And it bothers me greatly. How do I stop this from happening again? I suppose the only way is to push past the anxiety and fear at the moment. I will need to risk my comfortability to reach out to another. Love is never comfortable, it is always a risk. But the return on a loving investment always outweighs the hefty gamble. Maybe, like all seemingly difficult tasks, this will take practice again. Just as I couldn’t play the Mozart Clarinet Concerto the first day I picked up the instrument, I won’t be able to pray in public on the spot right out of the gate. And I’m sure God will forgive me for that, as soon as I work up the nerve to ask.

Homeless

One of my biggest fears in life right after cancer and heights is homelessness. As a single woman with no siblings, the thought has always crossed my mind, “What would happen to me if something financially catastrophic occurred in my life and I lost everything?” Immediately upon writing that sentence, I think, “Oh ye of little faith.” Nonetheless, it is a concern I’ve meditated on from time to time. It wasn’t until last year after volunteering at the Rescue Mission that that fear was laid to rest. At least in Nashville, you can stay at the Rescue Mission your whole life if you need to. While not ideal, it would keep a person off the streets and fed.

One thing I had never feared, which should’ve been of far greater concern, is being “church-homeless.” I feel shame at even thinking those words, let alone sharing them with all of you. But as I always say, God knows the thought in my heart so I may as well say it out loud if it might help someone. Never in all my years growing up in the church, and now working for the church, did I ever think I would end up church-homeless. That’s right, I work for the church and yet I can’t find one where I feel like I fit in. I feel shame at saying that, but it’s the truth. There’s not a church where I feel excited to go on Sunday morning and fellowship with a community of believers. And yet, we are expected to help create more disciples. How can I encourage other people to come to church if I don’t feel comfortable myself? I think people that grow up in or are heavily active in church activity develop pre-church-life amnesia. They simply forget how intimidating it is to walk into a building of strangers and try to call it “home.”

Many of these same people don’t realize the struggle in the necessity of working multiple jobs. I work twelve and a half hours five days a week (not including commute) and on Saturday I work my retail job for nine hours. I am thankful that I have a retail boss kind enough to give me Sunday off. I am beyond thankful for my two jobs and my six-day work-week that provide the means for me to pay my bills, my debts, and put food on the table. But after working a 71.5-hour week, I am exhausted. And nothing but hunger or nature calling can peel me from my bed Sunday mornings. Much less an institution filled with passive-aggressive elderly women, jaded men of God, and lack-luster pastors. Oh, and don’t forget the guilt and shame of having the collection plate pass in front of you and not being financially well enough to put anything in. I can barely pay my bills much less give on a regular basis. My monetary debts are great, but no debt concerns me so much as the spiritual debt that seems to be piling up around me. And yet a greater concern of mine is for those people that have it far worse than I do financially and don’t realize they are spiritually destitute. Friends, we have become the brothers and sisters of the perpetually irrelevant. This sentiment applies to all churches and all denominations. We all take an equal share in this serving of humble pie. Unfortunately, I haven’t the slightest hint of a solution. But I do know, the beginning of a solution is to acknowledge the existence of a problem.

So where will I turn to be spiritually fed and “kept off the streets?” Well, I’m not quite sure. I know that God will use this time for good. Right now, I may have to find a way to be spiritually satisfied with chapel service on Wednesdays mornings alone. Or maybe sometimes, I will have to read a sermon or find one on YouTube. It got exhausting to try to find a church family. And right now, in this season, I simply don’t have the energy for the hunt. I used to judge people for not going to church. Now I don’t so harshly. I’m working on it. We’re all judgmental little things when it comes down to it. I would love to not be exhausted and have time to take care of my home and myself on Saturday and have a true Sabbath on Sunday. But, the reality is, in this season of life I get to spend a lot of alone time with God due to time constraints. I am grateful for any time with Him. Perhaps God is using this season to teach me that you’re not less of a Christian because you don’t show up to a building at a set time every week.  Perhaps He is giving me eyes to see and ears to hear what His children need. Or maybe, He’s allowing a test of my faith. He is helping me to grow, of that I’m certain; maybe this is just a growing-pain.

40 Days of Not Asking

It’s been awhile since I’ve checked in. Lent was a game-changing experience for me; or more accurately, a heart-changing experience. For 40 days I didn’t ask God for anything. Not for myself. And not for others. This proved difficult at times, especially someone fell ill or I had a rough day. Instead of asking, I focused on praising Him and thanking Him. I learned a few things I’d like to share with you.

1.) God already knows what we need before we ask.

I have heard this phrase uttered oodles of times my entire life as a believer. I always thought, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Of course He knows. He’s God, He knows everything!” But there is an important fact and joy I missed out on all this time by never accepting that gift. I wasted a great deal of time in worry that I didn’t need to. Because He knows what we need and want, He’s already trying to work the situation out for good! We’ve all read Matthew 7:9-11, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” God is a gracious Father and wants to work things out for our good. So instead of asking Him for anything in the 40 Days before Easter, I instead laid whatever situation or thing that was troubling me at His feet. I left it there and praised and thanked Him for already taking care of it. If you’re a control freak like myself, then you understand just how much radical faith that took for me to do! I gave up what I perceived as “my control,” and handed it over to the Master of the Universe. When I did this, I received what my childhood pastor referred to as, “the peace that passes all understanding.” I knew in my heart (and had to know because I couldn’t ask) that He had already met the need in a more perfect way than I could have asked for or imagined.

2.) Trusting God in this manner requires radical faith.

As I shared earlier, I am a control freak. I always have been. I would venture to say that’s probably why I don’t have a husband or pets. It is an imperfection that although unfortunate at times, makes me, well me. When you open yourself up to love someone else radically it is unpredictable. The person. The relationship. Everything.  Being a control freak makes me somewhat of a wild pony – I don’t want to be tamed. But because I let go, I received a priceless gift. I would say I loved God in His fullness more in those 40 Days than I ever have. I really thought that I was loving God fully before then, but the truth is, I wasn’t. I was loving God in a box. I would take Him out of the box like a genie from a lamp, ask Him for what I needed, and package Him neatly up again after I was finished. But loving God is messy. It’s wild and unbridled. It is also liberating. I urge you to never put God in a box as I did. Make no mistake, old habits die hard and I’m sure I’ll attempt to cram Him back in the box from time to time. Everything, even relationships, takes practice. But if you’ve never taken time to love God simply for who He is, please do it. Your relationship with Him deserves it.

3.) Not asking for anything led me to desire more of God each day.

Have you ever had a hungry day? You might eat a dozen different things but nothing seems to satiate you? That’s how I felt toward the end of the 40 Days. It felt wonderful. I wanted more of God, I wanted to know Him, to be “around” Him. I wanted to sing to Him more. I wanted to read about Him. I wanted to feel what made Him happy and let my heart break with what broke His. For the first time in my life, I really knew my relationship with God had been transformed. I wanted fewer things and more Him.

It doesn’t have to be the Lenten Season, but I do urge you try this practice for yourself some time. Although I won’t be “not asking” for the rest of my life, since Jesus clearly tells us to ask for what we need, I do hope that I continue to carry the radical trust with me and the hunger for more of God every day. Be blessed friends!

 

Dad

I’ve been dreading writing this post. But here it is. The culmination of feelings and thoughts I can’t hide any longer. My whole life, whether intentionally or not, my dad has made sure I know I am disgusting solely because of the way I look. I am a fat person; of this, I am painfully aware. When any “fat” person is on television, dad always makes a point to comment on what a dreadful and revolting human being he or she is. He comments on how he or she is lazy, stupid, worthless, and should be made fun of as much as is humanly possible.  When he sees an exceptionally large person in public, behind their back, he puffs of his cheeks and makes a noise that imitates swelling or pretends like he might be sick with a gagging noise. There are ensuing comments, gestures, and a false sense of shock and horror conveyed as if he has never seen anyone so large in all his life.

Even as I write these words, I know this is not “normal” behavior to expect from a human being. When I see it in black and white and read it as if it were about someone else other than dad, I can see that person as sick. If I read this about anyone else, I would know that there is something mentally wrong with them. But because it is common to me, because it is normal for me, because it came from the man I call “dad” – I have accepted it as the truth. When I told my therapist these things she was appalled. But unfortunately, these behaviors were part of my daily life growing up.

My dad isn’t the only reason I’ve had to battle an eating disorder. But, no matter how hard I try, his voice, his reactions, and his opinions are always there. Just when I think I can be nice to myself, there is one of his thoughts that creep in and steal the good feeling. Thoughts that leave me feeling worthless, ugly, lazy, and stupid. The feeling is even worse when I try to date. I can’t imagine that someone, anyone, would want to spend time with me, look at me, or much less date and eventually marry me. I don’t even want to look at me. Even when I post a picture to Instagram of myself, I think, “You don’t look as disgusting today.” My therapist and I are working on breaking this thought pattern that berates and beats me down. But so far, we have been unsuccessful. My body is my prison, and my mind is the warden with a very large nightstick.

There’s a whole “Body Positive” movement. And as much as I’d like to join in, I can’t. I watch in awe of these women who truly believe they’re beautiful. Women even larger than me, love their bodies and dare I say, seem happy in their skin. They feel sexy and confident; something I have never felt in my life. Even at my thinnest, at best I only ever felt “cute,” and that didn’t last for more than a few moments.  I’ve desperately been trying to love “me” at any size. But I simply can’t right now. I hope to work towards that goal and succeed some day. I try not to define myself only by my body, but it always circles back around to that aspect of me. I am so much more than the container that holds me, and yet I am never enough for anyone, including myself. I am a creation of God, and I mentally spit on His work daily. Who am I to do that?

I don’t say all this to make you feel sorry for me. On the contrary, I am sharing these deep dark places so that you would be kind to others, especially yourself. Be sure to be positive around young girls, and teach them they are worth far more than their frame. Someday, those little girls that have watched and listened to you day in and day out will hear your voice in their head. What will your voice say to them? Will it lift them up? Or will they need to fight like hell? Will they need to fight for their lives?

I am tired of fighting, but fight I must. Perhaps in the next 30 years of life, my voice will gradually get louder and I will listen to the truth and join those who think lovely, powerful, uplifting thoughts. I hope.

Jesus and the Canaanite Woman

The Canaanite Woman’s Faith

 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.                                                                                                                                  -Matthew 15:21-28

This week we had a guest preacher at chapel; it was a woman in honor of women’s history month. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of a lot of preachers. And at times, perhaps because I am a woman myself, I tend to judge women behind the pulpit more harshly than most. I went to chapel with no expectation of being inspired, or at the very least, entertained. Much to my surprise, she was spectacular. “Spectacular” is not a word I throw around with reckless abandon. I rarely remember the message of whoever is speaking moments after the service let alone days after. But this particularly inspiring message renewed a hope within my own broken, cob-webby spirit.

She taught a lesson about the scripture in Mark 15:21-28, The Canaanite Woman’s Faith. I had never fully understood the weight of this scripture passage until she explained it. The Canaanite woman begs for Jesus to remove the demon from her daughter, and initially, he ignores her. This, uncomfortable idea for me, seems so unlike the Jesus I thought I knew. But after all, he was a Jew, and the Jews and Canaanites experienced a deep conflict that traced back to Noah. The woman, obviously aware of who he was, pleads with Jesus again. And this time, because of her words and more importantly her faith, Jesus changes his mind and heals her daughter.

This is such a mind-blowing concept for me to grasp. Jesus, change his mind??? I had never considered such an idea in my many years as a person of faith. Was it sacrilegious to say so? I suppose not since it’s right there in scripture.

She said that if God has laid something on your heart, you shouldn’t give up. It could be just one more prayer away. I guess the reason I struggle with this is that part of me believes in some sort of soft theological determinism. I believe in God’s omnipresence, but I also believe he has given us free will. I remember a young Carol Ann at church camp, deeply afraid that I could somehow “screw up” God’s plan if I chose the wrong path. But God doesn’t have a specific blueprint for each of us that we can unravel with one missed turn. He is, however, with us through each of the choices we make. And I do believe He orchestrates seemingly serendipitous meetings. The proof of all this for me, at least, lies within the meeting of Jesus and the Canaanite woman. If the Lord of all creation can change His mind, and was fully human, we can too.

The main point of her sermon was that we shouldn’t give up. And this hits hard for me. I feel as though I have given up on making music. I have accepted as truth that there is no possible way for me to “make it” in the industry, so I have seemed to stop participating in it at all. Perhaps, when Lent is over, I can plead with the Almighty to feed me some scraps from His table. Maybe He’ll decide to change His mind; it may only be one more faith-filled prayer away.

Photo by Fischer Twins on Unsplash

 

An Unholy Itch

Last week I didn’t write. There were no words that could help anything. I am watching our country crumble and crumple around me like tissue paper. And I have no words and no ideas how to make it better. So, what I will tell you about is what I’m doing for Lent. My sacrifice for Lent 2018 is to only give thanks in prayer. Why is that a sacrifice you might ask? I am a very needy child of God. If I were my own parent, I would describe me as downright whiney at times. I am also a glass half empty child of God – I tend to notice what is missing before I acknowledge the many blessings I already have. I know we are our own worst critics, so I am judging more harshly than if I were speaking of another person. But, to start to train myself to be more authentically grateful, to be grateful as a joyful and familiar habit, I am making a conscious effort to be thankful alone in prayer.

I already feel a difference, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. Generally, I get up in the morning now and thank God for giving me another day. I live in Nashville, and the traffic gets progressively worse as more people think it’s a good idea to move to the city. Usually, the first time God hears from me is in traffic, “Please Lord, let me get to work on time! Please move this traffic Lord!” I would surmise that my current behavior is decidedly more pleasing to the Creator, and infinitely more pleasant to hear first thing in the morning than a bunch of curse words flying at His other children, followed by begging.

In general, I am becoming more thoughtful, more cognizant of the everyday blessings around me. I take a lot for granted. Even if God never gave me another single blessing, I would have already had thirty years of blessings I didn’t deserve or earn. He really does love us; and I can’t quite figure out why. I’m not sure if that’s something we’ll ever completely understand to tell the truth. It’s like when my mom tells me she thinks I’m beautiful, I don’t think I am, but she really does think so. She’s explained it to me. But I won’t ever understand it, she just does.

The hard part about only giving thanks, is that I also must trust God 100% to meet my needs, which I am terrible about. Instead of asking for “things” or optimal “situations” I simply thank Him for knowing my needs before I ask. This is sometimes a physically painful adjustment. My heart aches to be unable to ask for the things I want or need. For instance, I am looking for part-time work to supplement my income as I am currently not making ends meet. I have cut my budget in every way possible, but simply maintaining my life (not growing, not thriving) is expensive. That is not a complaint, just a fact. And I am thankful God graced me with an amount of intellect and a body with enough physical wherewithal to work two jobs. All of that aside, not to be able to ask him for the perfect side hustle feels so uncertain. Then I have to remind myself every few moments that the Creator of the universe cares far more for me than sparrows, and he even cares for the sparrows.

I’m not sure where this Lenten journey will ultimately lead. Perhaps it won’t lead to any earth-shattering discoveries or spiritual awakenings. I may simply feel inconvenienced for forty days. I hope not though. It’s like having an itch I can’t scratch, an unholy, greedy itch. Best not to scratch those, they fester you know.

 

Hide and Seek

Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore but Jesus.    –Mark 9:2-9

 

Hide, and seek. It is a very familiar and well-loved game amongst children. It is quite a simple game to teach them. But it is not until you become older that you find your perfect hiding spot somewhere in the darkness, and relish the sound of tip-toes creeping past you, and you hold your breath for eternity so they never find you. Oh, it is thrilling! But, there is a time to put childish games and habits behind us and grow up. It would appear, that during the Transfiguration, Jesus was teaching one such lesson to Peter, James, and John.

He took only three of the twelve up onto the mountain- a symbol of holiness, sacrifice, and God’s power. By taking only three, Jesus made this an intimate, holy, and privileged experience for those disciples. Previously I had never paid attention to the portion of the verse that says, “And he was transfigured before them [. . .]” He was transfigured before them. He didn’t go into hiding; he did it right before their eyes. He wanted no secrets between them about his identity. My childlike mind immediately thinks the scene looked like something at the end of the movie “Beauty and the Beast” when the Beast gets transformed back into a man. And the Beast is transformed so that he becomes unrecognizable to those that did not know him, but Belle knows it is him because of his eyes. I would like to think the transfiguration happened something like that. But the truth is, I know it was an experience more holy and more beautiful than I can ever hope to imagine.

You might find yourself asking, “Why did Peter immediately offer to build dwellings for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus?” I wondered that myself. Peter, in his fear, reverted to his “old habits.”  Peter, being a Jew, would’ve been used to God being in the Tabernacle. He had a safe distance from God his whole life. His instincts told him to worship; to put God in a dwelling, in a box. But those instincts were wrong at that moment. God did not want to be put in a box any longer, so He spoke! The whole point of Jesus’ coming into the world was to create a relationship, a closeness to humankind that not even sin could sever; certainly not to create another divide. And even more, God did not want the three disciples to become confused and think that Moses and Elijah were equivalent with Jesus. As modern Christians, we have an advantage over the first disciples, in that, we have known God one way our entire lives. It must’ve been terribly difficult for the disciples to break some of their old habits and adjust to this new proximity to the Creator. Poor Peter.

I know as old and new believers alike, we try to put God in a convenient “box” from time to time. We take Him out on Sundays, polish him, and tuck Him away safely for the rest of the week after church ends. We bring Him out in the quiet places as we need Him. I know I am guilty of this from time to time. So, my challenge for you this week (and myself), is not to put God in a box. Be intentional about your relationship with Him. Keep the temple curtain torn in two. Let Jesus be by your side where he wants so dearly to be. Don’t build a tabernacle for the Most High. After all, God made it clear he doesn’t want to play hide and seek with us anymore.