It was Thursday July 3, 2014. I was lying in a hospital bed in Durham, NC. One day earlier I had been taken to the emergency room because I had suddenly gone blind. This moment was to become a mountaintop experience for me. Please read more to find out why and discover what it has to do with you.
I arrived at the hospital emergency entrance on Wednesday July 2nd around 9pm. After an hour or so in triage, the balance of the night was filled with tests. It was a mysteriously eerie feeling being pushed around the halls of the hospital in a wheelchair, all the while unable to see anyone or anything. Countless voices spoke to me as they checked me in and out of each new procedure and test. I spent hours in a MRI machine that I couldn’t see.
The next morning the doctors were still perplexed by my blindness. Although they had yet to determine the cause of my blindness, the tests revealed that my optic nerve was severely damaged. The doctors informed me that they did not think I would ever be able to see again. To a non-believer, this may have come as tragic and frightening news. For me it was a blessing of great magnitude. Allow me to explain.
As I laid in the hospital bed, exhausted from the previous night’s tests, I had a sudden realization. The loss of my vision had removed all worldly distractions. Although there were others in the room with me, including my wife, for a period of time I felt as if I was having a mountain top experience with no one there except Jesus and me. I was seeing Jesus more clearly than I had ever seen Him before. At that exact moment I prayed a prayer, that to this day, still astonishes me. I prayed, “Jesus, I have never seen you as clearly as I do now, Lord, please don’t give me my vision back. I want to remain here with you forever.”
As I prayed my prayer, it occurred to me this was a transfiguration-like moment. The Bible says a cloud overshadowed the apostles and they found themselves alone with Jesus. Similarly, I was clouded in blindness, but I was seeing Jesus in a way that I had never experienced before. Did I actually see Him? No. It is more accurate to say, I experienced Him. I experienced a closeness to Him. He felt present to me in the darkness.
In Matthew 17:1-9 we read about The Transfiguration of Jesus. Peter, James, and John had a mountaintop experience with Jesus. Peter wanted to build tents and stay there. Similarly, I wanted the closeness I was feeling in my blindness to last forever. At first, Peter missed the point of the encounter. He didn’t yet understand that this was a gift meant to sustain them through future difficulties. Jesus had more for them to do. They had to come down from the mountain.
I believe that God gives all Christians mountain-top experiences. These encounters can happen in the seemingly mundane aspects of everyday life. These small glimpses of Heaven are meant to sustain us on our journey. Too often these encounters are just called coincidences. Some people refer to them as God-incidences. A friend of mine calls them “pings” from the Holy Spirit. I prefer to think of them as personal transfiguration moments. They are usually brief and fleeting. These incidents are powerful, and joy-filled. Just like with the apostles, we cannot “build a tent” and remain in these moments. There is more work to be done in God’s Kingdom.
Like Peter, we often fail to understand these moments for what they are. They are gifts from God. Sometimes we have so much clutter, noise, and visual distractions, that we miss the opportunity to see God in these encounters. Like with Elijah in 1 King 19:12, God frequently speaks to us in silence. Are we tuned in to hear Him?
By God’s grace, and good medical care, I have regained much of my sight. Now, my vision fluctuates. Sometimes I see better than other times. However, my encounter with God in my blindness has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. It’s lasting impact has sustained me through many difficulties and trying times. I believe God granted me my transfiguration-like moment to sustain me in the work He has called me to do. So now, broken by sin, wounded by my neurological illness, and with damaged vision, I strive to serve the Lord.
Have you had your own transfiguration-like experience? Has Jesus made Himself more apparent to you in some unique way? Have you encountered Jesus in nature or some ordinary daily aspect of life? Have you ever just wanted to lie at His feet or curl up in His arms, safe and away from the world? Has He shown you that there is still more work to be done?
Just prior to the Transfiguration, Jesus told His disciples that He had to die. At the Transfiguration, Jesus granted the three disciples a mini glimpse of Heaven. He gave them a glimpse of what was to come. Through His Transfiguration, He gave them a glimpse of His glory. Jesus knew that they had hard times ahead. He gave them hope to sustain them during their trials.
Jesus had more work for the apostles to do. He has work for all of us to do too. Jesus had to endure His cross before He received His crown. We will encounter many challenges, heartaches, and difficulties. We all have our own cross to carry. The life of a Christian is not easy. Following in Christ’s footsteps is not easy. Submitting our will to God’s will is not easy.
God grants us glimpses of glory to strengthen us. We must be careful not to miss these encounters when they happen. If you are moved to do so, please tell us about your mountaintop experience in the comment section below.
Heavenly Father, please grant me many more mountaintop experiences. Help me never to miss these spiritual encounters when they happen. Help me to stay alert to your presence in everyday situations. Lord, as much as I would like to build a tent next to you or curl up and rest in your arms, give me the courage to go forth in this broken world, to tell others about the good news of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen!
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