20: God is in the middle.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
2 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain where they were alone. He was transformed in front of them, 3 and his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white. 4 Elijah and Moses appeared and were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good that we’re here. Let’s make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He said this because he didn’t know how to respond, for the three of them were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice spoke from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!” 8 Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
Mark 9:2-8 CEB
My son was impossible. We were in Cade's Cove, in the Smokey Mountain National Park, hiking Abram's Falls. He was officially a Webelos scout. It wasn't something new for him. Yet every 100 or so feet he was too tired to move. He just had to sit... again!
It was four of us: my five year old daughter, my nine year old son, and sister, and myself.
Almost half way there, just a quarter mile from the falls, my son fell to the ground. "I quit!"
My sister, as frustrated as me, but not showing it like me, sat down beside him. "I'll tell you what," she said. "We can quit right now."
"Really!" My son was no longer tired. He was excited.
"Yeah, but then this hike will be for nothing."
Dejected, he slumped again.
"Just a little further that way is this beautiful falls. There's water you can splash and play in. Then, we would be half way done! The hardest part is getting there."
"I don't wanna hike anymore!"
My sister and I looked at one another with that look. It was the look of a thousand frustrations. I recalled all my childhood hikes, and how many of them went just like this. I was tired. I couldn't go any further. How my dad just made us power through. I could be pushed in that way, but not him.
"I promise you," she said. "It's worth it. Plus, if we go back now we go back right now. We would need to get out to eat our lunch. If we go to the falls, we stop and eat lunch there. We hang around for a bit."
"Promise we'll sit."
My sister had successfully changed the focus. Before, my son was counting steps. Each single step was really two: the step to the falls and the step back to the car. She changed the focus to rest. He would get more rest by just just adding a few more steps. It was worth it for the rest in the middle.
We all need these focus changes every now and then. Getting to the middle of a project is hard work, and almost always harder than the second half of the same project. The first half is an uphill journey with no momentum, little to no help, and no perspective. We can get stuck in the grunt work and forget the purpose.
As my colleague and friend, Rev. James Brewer-Calvert, pointed out to me a few weeks back, the above scripture (the Transfiguration) happens exactly in the middle of Mark. A moment of clarity and purpose happens smack dab in the middle. The grunt work was done by this point. Jesus had grown in wisdom and matured. The Disciples were chosen and part of the team. The masses still didn't know who this Jesus guy was, but he was starting to gain a following. The middle of this journey was worth the hike.
While it is true we may not understand when these middle moments happen, God is all over them. Maybe they're not as beautiful as Abram's Falls, or as glorious as the transfiguration, but they are eye opening. They are meant to be moments of clarity. It's getting to them that's the problem. So many of us give up quickly. So many stop because it hurts too much, or we get too tired. If we just go a little further we will see the purpose behind the work. Other wise, the work was for nothing. A nice waste of time is all. Don't stop. Don't give up. God's in the middle.
Pray with me:
Dear God, I'm coming. Be patient with me. Amen.