And then what happens? Jesus made Peter & Co. go back down the mountain, and not say a dang word until the time was right. Jesus made them go back down the mountain to the dust and the drudgery of everyday life, and all the three could do was wonder what the whole thing meant, and what it had to do with their life.
I realized that this is how God changes us, too. I thought about motherhood specifically, sitting there in Mass. The moment sperm cell meets egg cell, the transformation is underway. You’re already a mother. You don’t even know it. Not only do you have no idea what God’s got in store for you, but in the silent darkness of that genesis, you don’t even know there’s a storeroom.
Then you discover this change is taking place. I have held six positive pregnancy tests in my life, and whether the pregnancy was planned or unplanned, the initial reaction to the news is always the same- “Dear God, what are you doing?” I am a modern day Peter, babbling about pitching tents while joy and terror race to see which can fill up my heart more. What are you doing, God? You’ve got the wrong woman.
But here’s the thing that maybe older mothers don’t tell you, or maybe they do but you can’t hear them because the time isn’t right- the mother you are the moment that first child is conceived, and the mother you are when you draw your last breath are separated by more than just years. They are separated by failures and successes and wisdom and screwups and above all, by the transforming power of God’s grace. And since we’re not God, but creatures of dust and ashes and fallen natures, the transformation takes time, and it occurs not in gleaming clothing and clouds of glory, but rather in messy bathrooms, pee stained bedsheets, and never ending 5th grade math assignments. But as long as we stay close to Christ, our transformation continues, in microscopic increments, until we breathe our last and like Peter, come face-to-face with the Transfigured Lord.
All this was revealed to me in moment, between the end of the Gospel reading and the beginning of the homily, and I found myself blinking back tears. Public displays of anger or sadness make me feel extremely uncomfortable, so I hoped no one around me noticed. Say what I will about wrestling with five kids during Mass- I generally can’t hear a single bit of the readings, so there’s no chance for me to be reduced to a sobbing mess by obvious demonstrations of God’s love for me.
I left Mass with a greater sense of interior peace and joy than I’d felt all week. Yes, I’d messed up in the motherhood department. Yes, I’d been a screwup. But that didn’t have to be the end of the story. There were transfigurations afoot, as long as I didn’t choose self-pity over grace. I drove home, sharing more in Peter’s joy than his terror. Then, as I pulled into the driveway, I remembered how the Gospel reading ended- with Jesus herding the three Apostles back down the mountain, away from the blissful glimpse into glory and Divinity, and back to the dust and noise and messiness of everyday life.
I knew it would be the same for me when I opened the door. But I didn’t mind. Because among the dust and noise and messiness of my everyday life is a family that loves me enough to keep forgiving me for being a screwup and who I love enough to keep cooperating with God’s transforming grace.
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