There is usually a moment in every wedding I am graced to witness when the couple just glows. Most often, it is after the vows, when they are more relaxed and the moment kind of sinks in. There is a wonder to their face, and honesty and excitement about their future, and they just shine. There is no better word to describe it. So too, even in the discomfort of pregnancy, don’t you notice that there is a radiance to the mother to be – something within that just shines, just pours forth out of them as from their very souls. Or if you have ever been at the airport at just the right time, when there are some military personnel walking from the concourse just behind you, and as you approach the security point, you don’t even have to ask who the husband or the wife is – it is so obvious. They just shine. Joy, relief, gratitude – it just flows from the deepest place in their hearts.
We know those human experiences, don’t we? When the goodness that is deep within somehow finds a crack, – a chink, an opening in our armor that usually keeps ourselves even hidden from ourselves – and we are just on fire, we literally shine. Those experiences are less rare than we might believe.
In today’s gospel, Jesus is shining. The one who was totally other centered, totally self sacrificing and totally generous with who he was for others sake – just shined. And in that moment Luke records that Peter, James and John (who were never very good at staying awake with Jesus in prayer) became totally awake – awake because the veil was pulled from their eyes, and they saw Jesus as he really was all the time. Note the context. It was as Jesus was speaking with Moses and Elijah about his exodus, his passage, his journey to love us on the cross, that he was transformed. As Jesus was having that conversation about dying, about sacrifice, about loving, the fire within, the love within, the sacrifice within, just kind of took over. And he shined.
And it is no wonder that Peter, James and John did not want to leave. None of us do when we are around people like that, people who shine because all they do is love. That kind of living transforms from within, doesn’t it? And from within, we see a glory, a shining there. We want to be around that, hopefully so that we can ‘catch’ some of that same energy and love in our lives.
I believe this happens in each of us at different moments in our life’s journey. WE shine when we embrace who we truly and fully know ourselves to be and the task that is ours to do in any given moment. It can be lifetime commitments like weddings or an hour long conversation with a friend in need – it doesn’t matter. What matters is our acceptance to that which is within. Because in the truth of that acceptance, in the surrender of our lives to that moment, God embraces the humanity that we have chosen to live, no matter the context. And that embrace of God just shines forth inside of us.
That ‘shining’ comes in different contexts.
• I have seen it faces streaked with tears, in a moment of pain and deep sorrow, as a husband and wife prayed the stillborn child the doctor had gently laid in their arms back to the God who created that life in the first place. They knew all they had to do in that moment was to love that child and be with each other in the loss. 27 years later, and I can still see their faces, shining in the truth of that moment.
• I have known it in conversations where a person who had hidden their suffering behind years of walls and defenses, found the courage to let the barriers down. Just for a moment, you saw the spirit within, yearning to be healed and open to the work of the spirit in that process. Though they would doubt my perception – there was a glory shining from them in that moment.
• Last night, as I was leading singing for college students at a Washington University retreat, there was a moment when I so wanted to pull out this huge mirror and let them see what I was seeing. As they were singing arm in arm, (the refrain from Sweet Caroline, as a matter of fact) growing ever more connected to each other in the gift that shared singing brings – their faces were radiant. And I am pretty sure mine was as well. How could you not shine, because you know at that moment, you are exactly where you are meant to be, doing precisely what you are supposed to be doing with the people God wanted you to be loving.
Jesus shone for a moment on that mountain top. It was a sight that the disciples never forgot – the glory that shone from within as he chose the path to the cross. It is the glory that appears in each of us when we live fully a life of emptying love.
And you, where will you shine this week?