Saturday, January 11, 2014

Seeing Glory

It is strange how memory shapes those years, that time outside of time, those three years that those who come after us will ponder and dissect and discuss for however long a time it takes till He returns. They will wonder, they will question, and sometimes, questioning the very nature of time itself, they will wish that they had been there in our place. But we were the ones who were there, who lived that time, who walked in his presence, who loved Him in the ordinary way, as a man may love his dearest friend, and who learned, in the midst of ordinary living, that He was not ordinary at all. We would travel, in the space of a breath, from common affection to something akin to worship, though, at the time, for I must tell an honest tale here, most of the time we hardly understood at all what was going on. I could lurch, in a heartbeat, from naming Him Messiah, and even Son of God, to trying to instruct him on His mission. We saw so much, and we understood so little, until it was too late, and we could not live those particular days ever again. But the Comforter did come, just as He promised, and we have lived and walked and breathed in His holy presence, and counted our sufferings to be the tiniest of measures when weighed against that privilege.

But I remember those days still. There is the inevitable blurring of so many ordinary hours into one another, but there are other moments that stand in sharp relief, like the hilltops that still shine golden when the sun is low, even though the valleys have fallen into deep shadow. And on one such hilltop we saw His glory in a very different way.

It was less than a week after I had first named Him as Messiah when He called the three of us to come with Him up a high mountain. There we were, utterly alone with Him and suddenly, right in front of us, He was changed. To call His appearance radiant, dazzling, shining … the words are technically correct, but they do not convey a fraction of the experience. Glorious? Yes, I suppose, but it was as if we had never known what the word ‘glory’ meant until then. And not only was He transformed into the utterly incomprehensible, but there were two others with Him. Somehow we knew that they were Moses and Elijah.

At this point I started babbling crazy nonsense. “It is good to be here.” (Was I insane? It was the most wonderful and terrifying thing that had ever, ever happened to me, and I came up with that gem of banality!) But it didn’t stop there, I then went on to suggest we should build them shelters, right there on that mountaintop – as if such wondrous beings had any need of earthly shelter! My only excuse is that I was so terrified that I yearned to fill that holy silence with the first inanity that came into my head – anything just to make it seem more normal!

Yes, terrified! Anyone who thinks that they can stand there, straight and steady, in the presence of absolute holiness is deluding themselves. Yes, it was beautiful, beauty that wrung our hearts with that delight which is chiefly yearning, but by its very beauty it challenged all the dark, comfortable little corners of our souls in which we take our ease. We wished it would leave us alone; we wanted it to continue forever.

Now, all these years later, I still take comfort from that memory. It is too easy to fix our eyes on the troubles of this world, to forget the transcendent wonder that lies just beyond our sight, but I, privileged to have seen so much, His torment, His resurrection, His hands blessing the bread and breaking it that we might eat, I have seen this too. John, who always had the gift of words, put it this way:  “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

No comments: