What does it mean to be transfigured? The answers to profound questions often come in unexpected places. Life on Purpose by Eileen Benthal.
I love to hang out in my laundry room. It is just outside my bedroom; a cute little room with a window. I love the smell of fresh, clean laundry. But the main reason I love my laundry room is my prayer corner is tucked in between two walls and a window that looks out at the barn in my back yard. I like to think of this space as a place where heaven and earth converge. Here, the practical mundane tasks of my life become one with eternity. I ask the Lord to transform my daily life with an eternal hope of heaven and to show me His hand at work.
Last year, I added a treasured painting to my collection of images in my prayer room. It is done by an artist whom I really admire, both for her work and her life. The artist is my 16 year old daughter Johanna. A year ago, we were planning a fundraiser to support research for CCM3, the genetic disease which causes the malformations in Johanna’s brain.
While I was busy with the details of the event, Johanna was diligently working on paintings to sell at Johanna’s Hope for A Cure. While art critics may not agree, I think Jo’s art is precious. It holds a mystical quality and a unique perspective. The colors and shapes of figures and landscapes reveal the perennial child- like nature present within Johanna and indeed in many people who suffer from brain injury and cognitive disabilities. Creative expressions bridge the gap between her profound insights into life and the disabilities that may limit her communication with the world. When I watch and listen to Johanna sing, dance or paint, I witness how the suffering in her life becomes a powerful gift to convey a message of hope to the world.
Amidst her paintings of rainbows, water and flowers, there were interpretive works of bible passages. My favorite is the one I have in prayer room. I named it “The Transfiguration”. When I first saw it, I was struck by the vivid colors and the intense look in Jesus’ eyes. I have spent many years pondering Luke’s account of the transfiguration. In this simple painting, Johanna seemed to grasp the profound truths which had taken me years of prayer and study to comprehend.
Jesus took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen” (Luke 9:28-36).
The word transfiguration means a change in appearance, in a glorifying or exultant way. On this mountain, Jesus gave his disciples a glimpse of the glory of heaven. Just before this, Jesus shared a prophetic word about his own death and resurrection. He also conveys to them that if they are to be his disciples then they too have to pick up their cross daily and follow him. While many scholars believe that Jesus chose Peter, James and John for this intimate, mountaintop experience, I believe that they were the only ones ready to continue this journey! The other disciples needed more time to digest these new conditions for discipleship which Jesus presented to them.
Jesus meets Elijah and Moses, two prophets who hold significant roles in the Old Testament and in the history of salvation. Here the old and new meet and Jesus is revealed as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies for a Messiah. I love that Peter, James and John almost missed this! I can so relate to being sleepy and exhausted before God. But it says that “when they were fully awake they saw his glory”. The glory that they saw before them was so awesome that Peter wanted to set up some tents and stay there! It sure beat the frightening images of daily suffering and persecutions that Jesus was describing just eight days before. In this experience of glory, God the Father revealed His chosen Son and told the disciples to listen.
God is calling each of us to our own mountains of transfiguration. When we decide to go away to meet God on the mountain, in a church, on a beach or even in the laundry room, He will show up. He will give us new vision and purpose for the life we lead. If we are willing to wake up and pay attention, we will see His glorious plan unfold in our lives and gain new perspective for the journey.
Johanna’s disabilities reveal her greatest abilities. Her artistic rendering of The Transfiguration is a reminder of this truth. She has shown me that when we take up our cross daily to follow the Lord, He opens our lives to imagine the impossible. She lives her life day by day, with a smile on her face and a song in her heart, even as she battles this disease. My daughter teaches me that when we are fully awake, God transfigures our lives before our eyes and reveals His hope of glory.
Eileen Benthal has a B.A. in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer, speaker and wellness coach at 40DaysToFocus.com and NOFO Wellness Center. She works with clients locally and around the U.S. who are excited about balancing their health in body, mind and spirit.
Eileen and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, 16-year-old Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org andfacebook.com/40DaysToFocus.