Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mountain Revelation

The first full week of November I went on a retreat with Terri (need I say more?). We spent three days at The Cove near Asheville, North Carolina.

The Billy Graham Training Center is a glorious place on so many levels. The foliage had just passed its peak, the weather was a perfect blend of sunshine and that nippy edge of deep autumn, fires fought and danced in enormous and cavernous fireplaces. We ate incredible five-star chef-prepared meals, and we experienced a deep quiet that permeated through the layers of noise and shuffle. We engaged in powerful and transparent conversations with each other, the teaching was like manna—dropped on us, and we found a slow and spacious place to breathe. No wonder we were reluctant to leave.

The mountain.

We have experienced it: a retreat, a conference or a vacation that felt like we were on top of the mountain.

It’s a time we resonate with Peter, James and John and the Transfiguration with and of Jesus. On that mountain and in that moment the inner three of Jesus’ circle saw Jesus in a limited revelation of his glory. (They wouldn’t have been able to tell this story later if they had seen him in his full glory!)

There have been many interpretations of why Peter wanted to build a shelter for Jesus. I think Peter just didn’t want to leave the mountain. He didn’t want to walk away from the revelation and go back down into the daily living of life where everyone looked the same again—where the glory-light began to fade. On that mountain, time and circumstances were suspended. Revelation opened eyes even if they didn’t fully understand what or who they were seeing. The mountain was a place of unveiling and uncovering. Peter wanted to set up camp for a while.

But God never allows us to remain on the mountain for very long. Revelation must be carried back to the valleys and plains and hollers and cities and villages and coves.

We tend to want to stay in the moment of revelation and transfiguration. We want to bask there, sunning our pale souls. We want to camp there, drenching our dry and cracked soils. We want to eat there, filling our empty and growling bellies.

Do you blame Peter? 

Or us? 

I don’t.

But the reality is that the revelation, the unveiling of who God is and what he is doing, is to be shared. It is to be proclaimed. It is to be given. It is to be implemented. It is to be applied.

Revelation must move down from the mountain into the places we live if it is to become more than an idea and more than a concept or a doctrine.

You see I wanted to send a bus and carry everyone I missed and loved to us. I wanted to bring them to The Cove and set up camp.

But you can’t set up permanent camp on the mountain.

Jesus didn’t stay on the mountain either. He didn’t take Peter up on his offer of a shelter. No. He covered his glory, wrapped his humanity right back around that marvelous light, and came back down that rock and boulder strewn path—returning to the din and chaos of humanity. He came down with Peter and James and John. Back to the place they were living.

Briefly I heard and saw and was enveloped in a great cloud of his glory last week. There was a moment or two that I was about to make some suggestions like Peter’s. I think Terri and I even suggested to a few of our fellow sojourners, “Let’s just live here. Right here.”

But we came back.

We drove down that mountain talking and grappling with everything we had seen and heard. We came off that mountain with our faces glowing. That God-glory had settled on our tarnished faces—polishing them like silver.

For several days I mourned. I didn’t want the glory to fade. Didn’t want that glory-light to fall away.

This post began in the middle of that grieving.

And somewhere in the middle of it, most likely right when I was about to open my mouth and talk about shelters like Peter, God reminded me that revelation must come back down the mountain and live.

Now, here we are at the base of that mountain. The glory has faded. The hot fire of it burned down to embers. We are back in the place where the air is thicker. Back into the grit and grime of living. Back in the routine of alarm clocks and jobs. Back in the place of dirty laundry, unmade beds and lost socks. Back into the friction of personalities and opinions (including the ugliness of my own).

Friends, this is where we live: amidst the struggles and the wrestlings of our humanness. We live in the constant grappling of the interim of being citizens of the mountain, but residents here now. 

And though the glory might fade, its transformational qualities do not. Exposure to the glory of God changes us, transforms us. My precious friend, Peter, reminded me of this truth. Peter remembered that mountain glory for the rest of his life, but I realize that part of what made that indelible impression on his heart was that the Glory came back down the mountain with them. That Glory walked out among the people. Touched them. Held them. Loved them. The glory-light might have been cloaked, but it couldn’t help but seep out through the cracks..

God’s revelation is always given so that we might know him more. So we might be transfigured. Revelation is meant to be shared—disclosed. Opened. An unveiling of the mystery to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.

And He will always come back down the mountain with us. Always.  Because he wants us to know him. 

Isn’t this the point of transfiguration? Isn’t this the point of revelation? Isn’t that the point of the mountain?

To know him.

If we have been transfigured by his revelation then it will come with us off the mountain.

Our glory-light might fade, but it will seep through the cracks.

So, if I am going to live like the Jesus I profess—if I am going to live out his revelation—then I have to come down from the mountain and live.

Right here. Right now. Right in the middle.

1 comment:

TARSmith said...

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in." And, I guess, how the Light gets out. One day we'll go to THAT mountain and there will be no coming down.

The Thrill of Hope--Jeremiah, Part 1

One April evening in 2017 we reached for your Mama and Daddy’s hands and led them into the stillness of an empty sanctuary. At an altar we...