Luke 9:34 – “While [Peter] was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.”
The scene is familiar. Jesus has taken Peter, James, and John with him to the top of a mountain. He prays in isolation, but the disciples struggle to keep awake. While Jesus is praying, something spectacular occurs – his face begins to change and his clothes become a dazzling white. Moses and Elijah manifest and they speak with Jesus about what must occur in Jerusalem. The three disciples, dazed and confused, identify the unique that occurs before them. Peter suggests three dwellings be built so they may stay there. “While [Peter] was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.”
Just when Peter and the disciples attempt to control the situation, the hidden presence of God overshadows them. The word “whelm” means to engulf, submerge, or bury. The hidden presence of God whelmed these men; and, they were terrified as they were consumed by God’s presence. You could argue these men where overwhelmed by God’s whelming presence.
There are so many things in our life that overwhelm us. The significant and the trivial whelm us – we allow aspects of our life to engulf, submerge, or bury us. When we allow life to whelm us, we are left feeling overwhelmed. What if we did not allow this to happen? What if, instead, we allowed life to underwhelm us? How might this create space for God?
Peter, James, and John were overwhelmed as the hidden presence of God whelmed these men. They were terrified. When they attempted to take control, they lost control. But, then, at the very moment, the divine spoke. God revealed the true identity of Jesus to these men – Son, Beloved. And, then, God gave these men direction – “listen to him.”
When we allow life to underwhelm us, we may be creating space for God to overwhelm us. The overwhelming presence of God should encourage us. God speaks when God whelms! God identifies his Son! God directs our living!
So maybe we should let life underwhelm us so that God can overwhelm us…