by Emily Conrad
It is no easy thing to leave the mountaintop.
Usually, by the time our vacations are over, I’m ready to come home. I’m sick of the car (we usually drive), hotel pillows, and I’ve thought “it’s just another mountain view; we don’t need to pull over” too many times.
Not so this time.
As we drove out of Grand Teton National Park on Saturday, I craned my neck and wished we had time for a nice, long photography session. It had snowed the night before, changing the appearance of the landscape to a Christmasy white complete with snow-packed pines. A moose and her calf grazed beside the highway in the sagebrush. The dark brown of their fur and the black and white world around them was exquisite.
But, the road wasn’t plowed, and the going was tough. We couldn’t stop the car on the highway, and even pulling into a turnout and using a trail to go back and get some pics sounded like an icy hassle. We had hours and hours to travel before we could stop for the night.
We drove on.
My reluctance to leave wasn’t limited to scenery. Some of that scenery, the night sky especially, made me feel like God was saying, “I’m bigger. I’m constant. I’m here. I see you.”
My response? Thank you, God. And while You’re here, I have a few questions. I need some rest. Oh, and please carry this load and sort this all out for me?
I had to return to normal life before I felt that those things had happened.
When we walked in our house, we were met by an odd smell. Some detective work led us to a dead mouse inside the inner workings of the refrigerator.
This morning, the dentist found that I have a cracked molar and two cavities. I glimpsed my patient care sheet just long enough to see they’d noted I need the dental work ASAP.
I locked myself out of the house. I tripped on the stairs. My oven has gone off three times with an error code. None of it has been a big deal, but vacation is definitely over.
As I thought about my reluctance to leave the mountains, I was reminded of Peter offering to make tents on the mountaintop where Jesus was transfigured. I’ve heard that passage used to talk about our reluctance to leave the best experiences of life and get back to the day-to-day, so I decided it was worth studying today.
I read in Matthew 17, Luke 9, and Mark 9. I got out my study Bible and read the notes. I also looked at the notes on the online NET Bible. After all that, I’m not seeing the application I expected.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a mountaintop to pray. Jesus was transfigured, and Elijah and Moses appeared and talked with Him. Peter goes down in history suggesting they make three shelters.
What I’ve heard in the past is that he suggested this because he wanted to stay on the mountain. Maybe he did. But what I see emphasized more in the notes I’ve read is that the shelters were a way to honor Jesus. The problem was, by building three shelters, one for Jesus, one for Elijah, and one for Moses, Peter was honoring them all more or less equivalently. He wasn’t giving Jesus the honor due Him.
Blame it on the fact that he was sleepy (Luke 9:32) and terrified (Mark 9:6), but the gaffe was serious.
Enter a voice from heaven.
Then a voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him!” Luke 9:35, NET
Jesus is special, and in theory, we know this today just like Peter knew it one chapter before the transfiguration in Luke 8:29.
He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” (NET)
Peter shows us it’s as easy to forget who Jesus is during the mountaintop experiences as it is to forget in the day-to-day.
It turns out that on the mountaintops, the disciples are the same flawed humans they are everywhere else. They’re still prone to sleepiness during prayer time. They still have much to learn from and about Jesus. They still have a lot of unanswered questions, and they don’t understand what Jesus means, even when–with the advantage of retrospect–Jesus speaks quite clearly.
Being on a mountaintop didn’t transform the disciples, and it hasn’t transformed me.
Equally flawed, I left vacation with some unanswered questions. I wanted to stay longer not just to experience the beauty of a snowy mountain landscape, but to rest and to think. To figure out some things.
Unfortunately, vacation ended.
In the mountains, I was essentially the same person, and that same person is now back in the daily grind, navigating the same old problems.
The secret isn’t camping out on mountaintops.
The secret is in recognizing Jesus for who He is.
The Beloved, the Chosen One, the Founder and Perfecter, the One who goes with us up the mountains and back down again, teaching us, revealing Himself to us, and drawing us closer.
The secret is in listening to Him and to the Voice we hear on the mountaintops.
Jesus is enough. He is our Savior. He is bigger than our problems and questions, and He is here. He is constant, with us to the end of the age.
God sees us whether we’re on the mountaintop or in the valley, whether we’re photographing moose in a meadow 6000+ feet above sea-level or crouched on the floor between the cabinets figuring out how to get a dead mouse out of the refrigerator.
Wherever we are, we always can cry out to Him and draw close to Him. He’s made Himself available to us. What a wonder that is, that God would be interested in us at all, let alone interested in our everyday.
So, bring on everyday life. Bring on the dentist appointments and the homeowner responsibilities. I may not be on the mountaintop anymore, but my mountaintop God is with me.
He is bigger. He is constant. He is here. He sees me. He sees you.