Mountaintops

Mark 9:2-8 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

You aren’t meant to live on the mountaintop.

“Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God.” These words of naturalist and adventurer John Muir echo true for me. If there’s one place that gives me a sense of peace and scrubs my soul, it’s the mountains. Especially climbing one. Maybe that’s been a way for you to remain sane this last week as well—getting outside. There’s something that happens in mind, body, and spirit as you trek your way up traveled-paths, over rocks and crevices, miles under your feet as you gain elevation. The air gets thinner and burdens become lighter, or even disappear. The vegetation, too, changes from trees to shrubs to lichen, to nothing. And when you reach the summit and scan the horizon, you can feel so very close to God. Sometimes you can almost touch the clouds. Sometimes you just wish you could stay there forever.

But nothing really lives on mountaintops.

Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with him to climb a mountain. But this isn’t just a hike to clear their heads in the fresh air. Jesus is about to reveal part of his divinity to them. Suddenly, everything is beautiful, Jesus is in sparkling white, and Moses and Elijah join the troupe. What’s not to like here? There are Jewish celebrities! And it’s so close to heaven! Then, probably out of both fear and awe, Peter blurts out “Let’s have a camp-out!” But Peter is missing the point of the mountaintop: Jesus is about to show them something here for them to remember in the valley.

It is good for us to have mountaintop experiences. These are the places where we feel especially close to God, where we straighten our focus, and gain perspective that we could not anywhere else. But while these places provide refuge and insight, we are not designed to stay there. What God shows us and teaches us on the mountaintop is meant to be remembered and utilized in the valley below, on the rugged paths and in the thorny briars and in knee-deep mud. The perspective he’s given from above helps us see them differently from below. And we learn to see God’s presence there too.

When you find yourself far from the peace of the mountain, seemingly a long ways from that spiritual high you once had, know this place you are in is a place for you to grow, to trust, to remember what he has shown you. And he is with you, and pursues you there relentlessly too.

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