Back down from the mountain

It had been a mountaintop experience. The dean had called Peg into his office and told her that she had placed first in her class and won a full merit scholarship to her first-choice university. Peg was thrilled, floating on cloud nine. But as she left the dean’s office and his words started to sink in, she quickly came back to earth. Her scholarship included books and tuition, but her mom’s illness took most of her parents’ fixed income and she would have to find a job if she was going to furnish her dorm room, buy some new clothes for school and pick up a used bicycle to get her around the campus. The news the dean had given her had been beyond anything she could have hoped for and she wished she could stay with the experience, but she knew that when she got home she would find dishes in the sink and a pizza box on the counter announcing what passed for supper most evenings at her house. It had been a mountaintop experience but now she had to come back to reality. And there was no way she could ever explain to anyone the excitement of it all.

Peter, James and John had a similar experience. They, too, had been to the mountaintop, and they, too, had wished they could stay. “Let us make three tents …” Peter, the practical one, wanted to build something solid to mark the occasion. But Jesus knew better. Jesus knew that there was still work to be done in Jerusalem. And so the disciples came back down from the mountain, and “… they kept the matter to themselves.”

Peg quickly realized that, like Peter, James and John, she was not meant to stay on the mountaintop. Soon she was caught up again in the world of senior end-of-year activities and the responsibilities involved in helping her dad take care of her mom. She had encountered God on the mountaintop, but that wasn’t where God lived. And that wasn’t where she lived, either. God had called her back down from the mountain. She still had much to do.

Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.