And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us set up three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.~ Mark 9:5-6
One of the more frustrating identifications during the World Series of Birding happens in southern New Jersey where the breeding range of Summer Tanagers creeps into the more abundant Scarlet Tanager. Females, juveniles, and non-breeding males of both species are all nothing but a non-descript drab green. But a major transformation happens every spring when the males take on new colors. Both turn a brilliant scarlet. The wings of the Summer Tanager are slightly darker that his body, but the jet-black wings contrasting the red body make identifying the male Scarlet Tanager an “a-ha” moment.
If only every identification were that obvious. The vast majority are much closer to 50-50 than 90-10. The truth is that that the 10% risk of mistake invariably shows up to embarrass overconfidence. That is why I’ve developed a habit of pointing out birds with “I think I have a…” or the always safe, “Is that a…?”
Sometimes, soft-pedaling is not because of doubt. Sometimes it is about disbelief. Perhaps that explains Peter’s desire to build some booths and stay on the mountaintop at the Transfiguration. Believing what he was seeing would change everything. It would validate everything that Jesus had said and done, without a shred of doubt. And that would mean that returning to ordinary life would never be possible because there was no more ordinary. Staying there in the miraculous, sacred space would have been like hitting the pause button, never having to face the new reality.
Ironically, in our mountaintop a-ha moments, we can fear being wrong and fear being right simultaneously. The challenge is to move beyond fear and return to the valley transformed.
Prayer: Transforming and Transformative One, don’t stop surprising us, just help us move beyond our fear. Amen