A few weekends ago my wife Mandy, my daughter Maura, and I were staying in a cabin just outside of the town of Clarksville, Arkansas. We had rented a small cabin located in the woods next to some other similar vacation cabins and the odd home off the beaten path. On the first night, while Mandy and I were relaxing on the front porch, a small black cat came out of the darkness, approached us boldly, hopped up onto our laps, and began kneading us with her claws. The cat was affectionate, playful, and appeared healthy and well, and we left the cat on the porch to sleep only to find it gone in the morning.
The cat returned the next night, and all nights following, as soon as it was dark, always greeting us and always behaving like we were the guests and she the host.
As you might imagine, it crossed our mind that when the time came for us to leave, we might take the cat with us. She was charming and winsome and I had already named her Biscuits because she kneaded so much. But the last night we had a serious and realistic conversation: this cat likely belonged to someone, like a little girl somewhere who called the cat Buttons or whatever and would assume that the cat had been carried off by coyotes and cry. Plus, if we were honest, Biscuits (or whatever we called he) would not be the same in our home that she was here. What we had found here we needed to enjoy here, and then leave it.
A couple of weeks ago the Christian liturgical calendar observed the feast day of the Transfiguration, the day in which Peter, James, and John get a glimpse of the divinity of Jesus Christ. With Jesus they see two prominent figures from Jewish history–Moses the lawgiver and Elijah the greatest of the prophets. Peter’s response was to immediately suggest that they build three booths, three places where he and the others could claim, store, and keep the holiness of the moment. But it is not to be, and the moment passes, although the memory has been passed down for generations.
People arriving, finding something they enjoy, and then stealing it for themselves could also be the Cliff Notes version of the history of our country, I have to say, so the tendency is not just reserved for myself and Saint Peter. But also in our own lives we can find ourselves wanting to take something that is intrinsically finite, momentary, or confined to a particular place and time and wish to recreate it elsewhere, even at the expense of others, rather than just see it for the gift that it is in the moment. Like a ringing bell, it loses something the moment that we try to grab it. Experiencing the holiness of God is so often the same: to be savored in the moment, free of the drive to try to preserve it for later, or steal it from another.
Yours in Christ,