(Written in February 2016) Transfiguration Sunday was a couple of days ago according to the Church calendar. In our early morning contemplative service, we listened to a repeated reading of the account of the transfiguration in the gospel of Luke. Following the reading, we shared the insights we had been given. One friend said he had been struck with another time when the three—Peter, James, and John—were with Jesus and were heavy with sleep. It, of course, was in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was praying before he was taken away. In both events, they were “weighed down with sleep.” This time they were able to stay awake to witness this interaction between Jesus and the heroes of their faith! What a grace! How sad it would have been had they missed this by succumbing to sleep. What an impact this must have had on these men. In the later event, they did sleep. I wonder at the opportunities they missed. They could have ministered to our Lord, but I wonder what else they may have lost in their sleep.
I do not fault these three for their exhaustion. They were human and had the human need of rest. I’m sure they later regretted missing these final precious moments with him. Yet the time was past and there was no way to bring it back. And that is as it is with us. We also, as with these disciples, are either asleep or awake. What do we miss when we are asleep? Albert Edward Day gives a good explanation of this familiar occurrence in the following:
God is not real to most of us because of the condition of our consciousness. He is closer to our minds every moment than our own thoughts. He is nearer to our hearts than our own feelings. He is more intimate with our wills than our most vigorous decisions. If we are not aware of him, it is not because he is not with us. It is, in part, because our consciousness is so under the sway of other interests that it cannot turn to him with the loving attention, which might soon discern him.
Did you ever encounter, on the street, a friend whose physical eyes looked at you without seeing you? You walked right into him before the alien look on his face changed into one of recognition. Then he confessed that he had been so absorbed in thought about some other matters that he had not been aware of you, until your intentional collision with him. You were there, yet he did not see you. Though actually in your presence, he was nevertheless as unconscious of you as if you did not exist.
It would be a very poor sort of life that was aware of people only when it collided with them, or was brought up standing by some decisive act of theirs. And it is a tragic life that becomes conscious of God only in those events that shatter its habitual thoughts and dreams and compel it to recognize his presence and activity.
What makes life splendid is the constant awareness of God. What transforms the spirit into his likeness is intimate fellowship with him. We are saved—from our pettiness and earthiness and selfishness and sin—by conscious communion with his greatness and love and holiness.
This is a lovely expression of what it is to be awake to the presence of God! How life is enhanced when we are able to live through the day with an awareness that God is with us each moment.
Anthony DeMello wrote a book entitled Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality. His premise is that once we wake up, we cannot go back to sleep. Our eyes are open to new ways of viewing life. This awakening is an outcome of the growth that takes place in our relationship with God. The scales fall away and we see more clearly. In my role as a spiritual director, I walk alongside others in their spiritual journey. I frequently hear directees speak of a new way of seeing the world. Unfortunately, it is often coupled with a measure of frustration. “Why was I so blind?” “I wasted so many years of my life.” “How could I not see what was right in front of me?”
This self-beating is a detraction from the grace that has been given us. God hands us a piece of the puzzle when we are ready for it. Yes, I may have been presented with the insight previously, but for some reason, I could not receive it. That is okay. Instead, the time is right for my eyes to be open now. I have gone through enough suffering and/or I have come to know God in a new way through the disciplines. Whatever it is, I am now awake to a broader way of seeing God and God’s kingdom. Hopefully, I am awake to the invitation to join into God’s kingdom work and be fully used as an instrument of love. There is nothing better!
Again as Albert Edward Day tells us–We are saved—from our pettiness and earthiness and selfishness and sin—by conscious communion with his greatness and love and holiness.
Grace and peace to you,