I read about a man who lost a leg from a roadside bomb during a tour in Afghanistan. Over time the loss of limb sent him spiraling into deep depression. There was deep sense of anger for this unfair turn of circumstances. He didn’t consider himself a ‘whole’ person and struggled to accept his worthiness as a husband and parent. His constant complaining and excuses caused a lot of strain on the marriage and even in the relationships with his friends. Life became a pity party. All he could think about was how he couldn’t do anything compared to his past.
During the depth of this struggle, his wife contacted an organization to find support for vets with disabilities. Soon afterwards, while the man was home watching tv, the doorbell rang. He rolled his wheelchair to the door, and there stood another man from the organization that asked if he could visit for a while.
The disabled husband invited the man into the living room. The visitor walked to the couch and had a seat. After a brief introduction, the depressed veteran began sharing his story and the depth of despair poured out in his descriptions. He had experienced a horrible accident, no doubt. But he was also feeling sorry for himself.
At that moment, the visitor asked if he could share his own story. To the husband’s nod, he pulled up his pant legs to reveal two prostheses. He too was wounded by a bomb, but he lost BOTH legs. The visitor acknowledged the depression that he also experienced, but then was motivated to do something with his changed life.
Until that revelation was shared, the wounded husband and father didn’t really think that this visitor could understand his burdens. Now it was as if a light was turned on in the darkness of his despair. It was actually HE, who could not understand what his visitor had gone through. And yet, HE walked. HE was whole, in a way far beyond limbs.
This is an example of ‘transfiguration’. We don’t use that word in today’s vocabulary. We hear of Transfiguration Sunday and think that this was a time when Jesus turned bright in the presence of Moses and Elijah. And that he did, he beamed as white as bleach can whiten. But ‘transfiguration’ goes deeper than simply being in the presence of heavenly beings.
Jesus was CHANGED in the presence of God. Moses too, while receiving the 10 Commandments in the presence of God was transfigured. He came down the mountain with an obvious glow that shined around him. Moses was CHANGED in the presence of God.
The word transfigure is translated from the Greek word ‘metamorphoo’, the same word that metamorphosis comes from. And it can also be translated as ‘transformed’ or ‘changed’. Jesus was changed in the presence of God. And you can imagine how transformed or changed Peter, James, and John were when they witnessed this event!
What is the response when the proverbial ‘light goes on’ in the darkness of our understanding? I’m sure Peter, James, and John couldn’t explain the rush of emotions and feelings when the heavens opened up and there stood Moses and Elijah. Mark even writes that Peter asked if he could make three tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah; a strange request that came out of Peter’s mouth due to fear and the inability to make sense of the situation. Imagine the fear, speechlessness, awe, and excitement all mixed together.
What types of emotions ran through the wounded veteran’s mind when it was revealed to him that someone else was wounded worse than himself and yet made something of life? Maybe a feeling of guilt for his pity party and yet hope for a better future at the same time. The veteran was transformed, changed, transfigured as he found purpose and in time recognized that he was still lovable, whether he had his original leg or not.
The presence of God transfigures us. It may not be seen as a bright light glowing around our bodies, but there is a light in our personalities and our beings. There is a hope that overcomes the fear and negativity of this world. Christ is that light and as followers of his, we have the opportunity to share it with everyone we meet. Amen.