The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Tent Making, not the Pauline Kind

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." (New American Bible Mark 9:2-5)

Jesus and his disciples definitely had a "peak" experience on this mountaintop. Jesus shone like a diamond and chatted with legends from the past. It was a total "wow" moment. Imagine getting a chance to hear the Beatles play together one last time or interviewing Thomas Jefferson--maybe even asking Socrates a few questions, for a change. The time-space continuum was shattered--it was truly a transcendent experience--literally.

When we have a soul stirring experience, one of our first instincts is to do what Peter suggests: Let's make a tent here. We want to create some kind of permanent structure in the hopes of keeping this experience going indefinitely. And why not?

The problem is that this was a living experience. Trying to set it in stone runs contrary to the very nature of the experience itself. It was a pure moment where everything came together at the right place and time.

I can relate. I have been on retreats and left absolutely stunned--People living in community, doing outreach work, praying together, bonding, supporting one another. Why would I want to be anywhere else? I have had similar experiences at music concerts or reunions of family and friends.

I have seen people get stuck in these moments. They become passive in life, dependent on the experience to provide them with the stimulation they need. They put their life on hold, waiting for the next concert or retreat. It is almost like a drug dependency. They sabotage their ability to experience something like that again because they have disabled the very traits that probably encouraged the experience to happen in the first place! In these moments, we are wide-eyed, receptive and purely in the moment. Maybe we are caught off guard so the experience creeps past our defenses of cynicism and logic. We don't want to be anywhere else.

We have all had times when everything came together just right. Maybe it was a road trip you had with a buddy. Yet, when you take some other friends there the next day to try to walk them through it or in hopes of experiencing it again, it often is flat. "We went to this restaurant and it was so fun." But yet, it is not quite so much fun the next day. Why is that?

This passage reminds us to live in the present.

Yet, one of the most fundamental things we do as Christians is remember. We remember one man who lived at a particular time and place who did marvelous things and touched our hearts. We carry on traditions begun in his own life 2,000 years ago.

So how do we distinguish the need to live in the present with the need to savor the past?

What does it mean to "move on"? It does not mean that we forget. On the contrary, we need to savor the past and continually draw strength and wisdom from it. It does not mean that we devalue it.

Moving on simply means that we are available to be present in the present. We can be right here, right now--neither caught up trying to artificially recreate something from the past nor living in a made-up future. It just means being able to be fully here in the moment. The life we have is right here, right now. To be anywhere else is to squander that gift.

1 comment:

  1. Jesus' transfiguration is part of my theory about him really being an alien from outerspace. ;)