This week, an intriguing question was posed to me. It was one of the questions in our community’s study of the gospel of Mark. My mind has been so scattered with Christmas prep, so it’s been good to focus and meditate on this question and what it’s taught me this week.
“Describe a time when you discovered something new in a common experience and how it affected you.”
The question was asked in our Mark study to help us get a taste of what Jesus’ disciples experienced when they saw Jesus in a totally new light. For the briefest of moments on a mountain top, Jesus was transformed in front of them, his clothes shining in bright light, standing with the prophets Elijah and Moses. The disciples were baffled and tongue-tied, but they all knew it was a holy moment.
I remembered a time long ago when something common was touched by what felt like a tiny miracle. Because my parents were new to Canada, English was not our first language at home, and “children’s literature” was not that well known. Until I discovered the local library at age 10 or so (a treasure house, I thought), the books we had at home were a set of Bible stories for children, and some childrens’ books of German poetry.
I have a strong memory of reading and re-reading one of the poetry books. I read the verses and studied the pictures every day, and it was a huge but pleasant shock to me one day to discover something new in the pictures I’d looked at 1000 times already. In a window in one of the pictures sat a blue bird that I’d never noticed before. How had I missed it all the other times? I was touched by wonder, first at discovering this treasure, and second at the miracle of discovering something new in a book I thought I knew cover to cover.
Seeing the bluebird in the window felt like one of the holy moments of my life and still holds a lesson for me today. Like the question says, you never know when a common experience will deepen and shine with new light. In my adult language, it teaches me that God’s in-breaking is always near, even when we think we’ve read our reality 1000 times.
Others in our study group shared their experiences too. Bev remembered looking at the moon through a telescope for the first time and being shocked at how much detail could be viewed, even in Winnipeg’s inner city. She wasn’t expecting it and was, as she said, “transported, freaked out and in awe”. Her experience reminded me of the joy of showing students common things through a microscope. A monarch butterfly egg on a leaf is only a tiny white dot and nothing special, but under the microscope it becomes a ridged and shining greenish-white vision, stopping everyone in their tracks.
I was stopped in my tracks this week as well when I remembered what we had studied and heard a Word about listening.
After the disciples saw the vision of Jesus transformed, a voice came from a cloud and said, “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7) We were asked what it means for us, all these years later, to listen more closely to Jesus’ voice. Paul Patterson (our community’s leader) gave a response that got me thinking. He said that in order to listen to Jesus, we must stop listening to the bombardment of ‘white noise’ which we call thought.
Paul’s small reminder stayed with me this week. This time of year has a lot of white noise going on. Gift buying, school concerts, celebrations to plan, people to remember (and all this on top of regular work) and I realized that my addled mind had lost its focus. It wasn’t until Friday that I remembered I hadn’t even thought of a blog topic yet. I literally sat down on Friday evening (the official first evening of my holidays) to listen. That’s when I remembered Paul’s words and I realized I had been listening to way too much white noise. My mind has been overflowing with errands and I’ve lost a sense of resting in God lately.
In the passage, one of the disciples named Peter had a comedic but knee-jerk reaction when the disciples saw Jesus transformed. He immediately wanted to build a group of shrines to immortalize the event. Instead of listening deeply and reflecting on the experience, he was planning a project! His blurting comment reminds us today to listen more deeply. What could Peter have learned from Jesus’ transformation?
Like the egg shining under the microscope, Jesus’ transformation was not pointing to glory. The caterpillar about to hatch from the egg is destined to die before it can be fully transformed. Jesus would face trials and even death because of the message he was bringing. The clue to this meaning of the vision lay in who was beside him. Like Moses and Elijah, prophets before Jesus, Jesus’ message was about submission and dying to the self.
I was grateful this week that God gives me the same choice as he gave to Peter. I can listen contemplatively to the revelations I receive in prayer or tune them out with the white noise of too much activity. I would like to become better at listening.
I still have errands before me. Like Peter’s knee jerk reaction, it would be so easy to be swallowed in activity. But remembering the hidden life of the caterpillar, I am grateful for the reminder to listen more deeply in this busy season. On my own, I will only burn out, so I pray for the rest that only God can give.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with burdens, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28