There’s a story in the bible about Jesus, Peter, James, and John. It (sort of) goes like this:
One afternoon, Jesus invites these three guys to join him up on the mountain. They lace up their Timberlands and strap Camelbacks over their North Face vests. Peter checks the back pocket of his cargo shorts to make sure his iPhone is easily accessible, and they start their climb. James and John, the brothers, snap photos of each other and Tweet them out to friends back home.
The men talk easily and pass around a zip-loc bag of Trial Mix. Peter digs around the raisins, in favor of M&Ms. Jesus laughs. The men kick up dust as they make their way along the mountain trails. The sun makes a slow arc across the sky. There are sheep and all the things sheep leave behind, and every now and then a low-flying bird sends a song into the clear, blue sky.
I imagine the three — Peter, James, and John — anticipated something. After all, they’d been hanging out with Jesus for a while. They’d seen what He could do. Maybe they were hoping Jesus would sit them down at the top of that mountain and lay out His plan for their lives. Or, maybe Jesus was going to share His strategy for world domination through military power. Perhaps they thought He’d unravel all the mysteries of the universe, and if not all the mysteries, maybe He’d unravel the ones that kept them up at night.
They are a dusty, breathless bunch when they reach the mountaintop. Peter stretches his arms above his head, and then places his hands on the small of his back and arches backwards, breathing great breaths of air. He reaches down, picks up a stone, and throws it off the mountainside, just to see it fall. John gulps water from the mouthpiece on his shoulder. James shields his eyes with his hand and looks out across the horizon.
“Did you say something?” James asks his brother.
“No,” John replies. “I thought that was you.”
The three men turn toward Jesus at exactly the same time, and they’re amazed at what they see. Jesus, radiant in light — from the inside out, and deep in conversation with Moses and Elijah.
Peter reaches for his back pocket and steps forward to interrupt them, “How cool is this?!?!” he exclaims. He fumbles with the apps on his iPhone, thumbing through, looking for Instagram. “Hey, you guys! Let me get a photo! And let’s just hang out here! In fact, I’ll build an altar to mark the spot, and we’ll make this our headquarters!”
I have to admit that Peter is one of my favorite bible characters. He is pushy and unpredictable and spontaneous and goofy. Just when he thinks he’s got it all figured out, Jesus flips the script on him and leaves him scratching his head. He means well. Really. He does. It’s just that his emotions get the best of him. Honestly? I think Peter simply says what everyone else is thinking. And in that moment, he’s thinking, “I want to live like this forever! I don’t want this moment to end! And…I want a record of it. I want to know that I know that I know this happened — that it wasn’t just a dream!”
I can tell you I felt the exact same way just a few golden-edged days ago, when the veil between heaven and earth became gossamer-thin, as 100 courageous women (and a few brave men) gathered on the Nebraska plains. I wanted to pour the moments into a quart-sized Mason jar, spill myself right over the side and into the midst of it all, and seal the jar with beeswax so we could stay there forever. Even as my eyes grew dry and scratchy in their sockets, and my heart pounded in my ears from exhaustion and from excitement and from the breathtaking thrill of God breathing life into our dreams, I wanted to it to last…
But time unfolds itself in sun and shadows, like amber waves of grain. We stretch for breath and throw stones off mountainsides, and shield our mortal eyes from the sun; we gulp water wherever we can find it. And we dream on.
How about you? Are you still dreaming?
Photo credit: Diane Bailey, a woman with a beautiful heart. Have you read her book?
Bible story: Mark 9