Like Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus took me up high this past week, so I could see Him more clearly. In the mountains of Guatemala, I got a glimpse of Him that was brighter and sharper than what I often see in my Florida valley.
He didn’t glow like in Matthew 17, but I saw His body more clearly and fully—in the form of the other short-term teams from South Dakota and Puerto Rico that joined my church group in working with the congregation that was hosting us, and the kind people that welcomed us, Spanglish and all.
Like Peter, I got a bit carried away with it all at one stage and thought we should all just stay there and hang out, enjoying the experience. But then God reminded me that mountaintop moments aren’t for the sake of it, but for the sake of others. They are to prepare us for what is ahead.
We all have to return to the people and places and situations in our different valleys. But as we do, we can look to Jesus to guide us in making sense of the lessons of those higher encounters, just as He did back then. Matthew 17:9 notes that “as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them…”
I sensed Him telling me three things as I returned from Guatemala, lessons from ninety-degree-heat days breaking tough ground for a shelter that will offer a home and hope to abused women.
Keep drinking. Squeezed between a hard sky and hard earth, we needed no reminder that we had to stay hydrated if we were to survive and hope to make any kind of a difference. We needed simple, life-giving water. Similarly, being out of our comfort zones in many ways, in an unfamiliar culture and context, we knew we had to rely on the water of life, the Holy Spirit, for prompting and leading.
I don’t want to lose that awareness of dependency as I settle back into the familiar and the routine where, even with the best intentions, it’s easy to revert to doing what I know I can achieve in my own strength, without relying on God: “Leave this to me, Jesus, I’ve got it from here!”
Keep aching. Wielding pickaxes and shovels, many of us exercised muscles we did not even know that we had. I tried to imagine each swing and each stab at the ground as a prayer to heaven, breaking up the spiritual ground too. By our third day on the site, that meant that each “prayer” made me ache.
I want the same thing to keep happening now I am back home. There are people and situations that I am concerned about, and for whom and in which I want to see God move, but I wonder how often my prayers are offered with a level of desire that causes me pain?
Keep healing. Unused to the tools, we were rubbed raw. There were blisters, and tender flesh exposed. Then there were stomach protests over some of the water and some of the food. The “helpers” needed helping in turn. From band aids to belly medicine, we needed people to come and tend our wounds and care for us in our sicknesses. If any of us had any delusions of missionary grandeur, they were shattered as we sought healing.
I want to remember that back in the ordinary, reminded that whatever God may call us to do, it’s only ever broken people helping other broken people. No superiority, no better than them, just my opportunity to help you before I need the same. I just get to choose whether to face weakness gratefully or fake strength gracelessly.