Let me begin with a confession: I have an unfettered weakness for cheeseburgers, Reese’s Cups, and onion dip.
Not served together.
Most of the time, I can keep these evil demons at bay. Occasionally, however, they gang up on me. Like a few years ago when they combined forces and caused my favorite item of clothing to get too tight—which was quite a feat, since the item of clothing was overalls.
While the clothing fit was alarming, I needed something more than tight overalls to inspire me to change my behavior. I needed a visual—an aspirational goal. I needed to see the end game. That’s when I decided to pull out all the stops and tape photos of the uber-fit actress Linda Hamilton from the Terminator movie series to my refrigerator door. Every time I went into the kitchen in a moment of weakness, I’d come face to face with the image of what I was working toward. That visual would hold me steady, enabling me to close the fridge, put on my gym clothes, and start the necessary work to be that vision.
Everyone needs a visual for their goals, including the disciples. That’s why I think Jesus transfigured in their midst. The disciples needed a vision—an aspirational goal. They needed to see the end game.
In the chapters before Mark’s transfiguration story, the disciples show nothing but weak faith. Like a dog on wet linoleum, they are all over the place. They whine about their circumstances, confuse Jesus’ teachings, and question Jesus’ ministry and purpose. Finally, Jesus takes the ring leaders—Peter, James, and John—up a high mountain, and there he transforms into an otherworldly spectacle. His face shining like the sun, his clothes dazzling with light, Jesus stands in front of them with the great prophets Moses and Elijah while a voice from the heavens proclaims, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
In this moment, the disciples get their visual—their aspirational goal. They see their end game, that they are serving Jesus, the messiah, God’s chosen one. This is the vision that will support them, hold them steady through the difficult times, and inspire them to carry out the necessary work for their life’s purpose.
We, too, are children of the most high serving God’s chosen one, yet sometimes we forget that. We forget the dazzling, shining light within us, the voice that proclaims inside our hearts, “You are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” When we forget that birthright, our light goes out. Our demons gang up, and we lose our way. We need a visual to remind us of what is possible, for if we don’t develop a vision for ourselves, the world will impose its own.
I am reminded of a story from Pastor Ned Lenhart, a dear friend who is the father of a beautiful, talented teenage daughter who also happens to have Down syndrome. When she auditioned for her high school choir, she was told that there was no place for her. That was the world’s vision for her. But Ned and his wife Jill had another vision—a dazzling, shining vision that honored their beloved daughter. They formed a group called Hearts in Harmony, an adaptive show choir for kids with special needs that now performs throughout their community and beyond. It’s just as the author Martha Grimes said, “We don’t know who we are until we see what we can do.”
This is true in life and in death. Have you ever read those stories about after-death experiences? Every patient tends to recall the same moment. They encounter a brilliant white light full of warmth, love, and life, similar to what the disciples experience in that moment on the mountain with Jesus in Mark’s transfiguration narrative. We all carry that same light within us. It’s a holy light, a light of the spirit. In life as in death, we, too, have moments of transfiguration—shifting our visual from our small, human limitations to dazzling glimpses of potential and life.
Perhaps I will always battle with cheeseburgers and Reese’s Cups, but because I can visualize my dream of becoming Linda Hamilton, I know that ultimately, I will win. If a simple image from a cyborg movie can drive that kind of change, think how much more our lives would blossom if our visual was Jesus.
Never give up on the possible. Never give up trying to see and live your holy potential. Remember who you are and whose you are. That is the end game . . . and He is our ultimate visual.
PRAYER: Gracious God, help us to remember that we are your beloved sent to serve your chosen one. Remind us that we are your children in whom you are well pleased. Grant that we may fulfill your purpose for our lives by giving us a vision of what we should be—what we can be—when we accept your unconditional love. Amen.