Last weekend, my husband and I headed north to spend a few days at our cabin with our son and his family. Saturday afternoon, while our youngest granddaughter napped, Grandpa offered to walk her older sisters to the lake. I went along partly to serve as an extra set of arms, just in case the walk back was too much for the girls, and mostly to enjoy the time with them.
The path to the lake, which is half a block down the road from our driveway, provides fairly direct access to the shoreline below. This particular day, however, the path alternated between hardened mud, icy patches and snow. Twigs and branches strewn by recent winds made the walk even more challenging. So it was that Grandpa held tightly to Lauren’s hand and I held tightly to Ellie’s hand as we gingerly made our way down toward the frozen water. As we proceeded, we watched carefully and warned one another to be careful when we came to a difficult-to-navigate stretch. All the while, I prayed that we all would remain safely on our feet.
Fortunately, near the end of the path there is a large community deck which overlooks the water. When Grandpa saw the ice-covered beach, he quickly announced that we’d see the water best from this wooden perch. Ellie and Lauren happily climbed the icy steps with us. To the girls, the view was breathtaking. Lauren looked across the lake to the clusters of trees on the other side and declared, “There’s a kingdom. And there’s another kingdom, too.” Ellie remarked, “The water is white, Grandma. It’s all ice. I never saw so much white ice!” Nature’s beauty wasn’t lost on these preschoolers from the suburbs. The beauty of this place is never lost on Grandpa and me in spite of the sometimes hazardous trek down to see it.
In the midst of our musing, a cold gust urged us back to the warmth of the cabin. Ellie quickly grabbed Mike’s hand as she pointed out that it was her turn to walk with Grandpa. Lauren grabbed my hand and countered, “I want to walk with Grandma.”
As we headed upward, the sun disappeared behind a cloud, darkening the path before us. Mike and Ellie barely balanced themselves on the ice beneath their feet as they led the way. Finally, Mike eased Ellie into the snow that bordered the path to avoid what seemed to be an inevitable fall. Though there were more branches and rocks to climb over, Mike and Ellie were able to maintain their footing in the snow. As I watched, I warned Lauren that we had to be careful, too, or we’d slip and fall. With all of the seriousness that a three-and-a-half-year-old can muster, Lauren reassured me, “Don’t worry, Grandma. Just put your feet in Grandpa’s footprints. I’ll put my feet where Ellie goes and we’ll be okay.” Lauren and I did just that. Step by step, I placed one foot at a time into the tracks Mike had made. Step by step, Lauren followed her sister’s footprints precisely. With great care, we successfully navigated the treacherous hill back up to the road and on to our cabin.
I share this hillside adventure because Jesus leads his disciples to a disconcerting mountainside in today’s gospel (Mark 9:2-10). Though the trip upward seems easy enough, Peter, James and John have no idea of what they’ll encounter as they follow Jesus. They are acutely aware of growing unrest among the people. When Jesus began to reveal himself not as a prophet, but as the messiah, this news didn’t sit well with the temple hierarchy. Perhaps the three disciples hope that Jesus has taken them aside to explain his teachings further. Before they can utter a word, Jesus appears in a dazzling aura with Elijah and Moses at his sides. These glowing figures reveal the essence of eternity before the incredulous eyes of the disciples. If this isn’t enough, the Almighty speaks from the clouds, “This is my beloved son. Listen to him.” As frightening as the journey ahead will be, God promises that Jesus’ footsteps will reveal the way to the same glory for each one of them.
My granddaughter Lauren knew exactly what she had to do to get up that ominous hill last weekend. It wasn’t at all easy for her little feet to follow in Ellie’s footsteps. Still, Lauren persisted because it was the only way for her to return to the warmth of the cabin and Mommy’s and Daddy’s hugs. Like little Lauren, Jesus knew exactly what he had to do to urge Peter, James and John heavenward. Jesus gave them a glimpse of all that any of us needs to motivate us to follow in his footsteps. In that dazzling aura, Jesus offered his disciples and each of us the promise of eternal life at home with God one day.
©2012 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved