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God, Questions

Moments versus Monuments

The story in the Bible of the transfiguration of Jesus has always perplexed me.  Peter goes up this mountain with Jesus, all of a sudden there’s a bright light and Jesus is joined by Elijah and Moses.  This is apparently a really big deal and in the midst of the scene Peter offers to build 3 shelters on the mountain as a shrine to what happened there.  Jesus scolds Peter for suggesting this and they descend the mountain.  I’ve heard a few explanations, but I’ve never really understood why Jesus was less than pleased with Peter’s suggestion.

Recently I was reading a book, The Blue Parakeet, by Scot McKnight.  Scot makes a reference to what happens when we turn particular moments into monuments and the transfiguration story hit me in a new way.

When we take moments (like Jesus being transfigured on the mountain) and try to turn them into monuments (like building shelters) we miss it.  I’m not sure exactly what “it” is, but the concept of moments and monuments resonates with something inside of me.

I also recently saw the movie The Hours.  At one point Meryl Streep’s character is talking to her daughter about a particular moment of pure happiness she experienced many years ago.  In that moment she had thought, “this is the beginning of happiness,” and that life would unfold in a similar progression from there.  Looking back though she realizes that it was not the beginning of happiness, it simply WAS happiness.  And as her life unfolded since then, it felt unresolved, empty, maybe even menial.

I think in that moment of happiness, Meryl Streep’s character went into “monument-mode.”  She started picturing and dreaming about what life would be like as more and more of those happy moments happened.  She started trying to build a monument of happiness rather than experiencing the moment of it.  And she ended up stuck.

I think Jesus knew what would happen to Peter if he tried to build a monument.  He knew Peter would end up stuck and ultimately missing “it.”  And maybe the “it,” in the words of Scot McKnight, is this:

“God is on the move; and God will always be on the move.  Those who walk with God and listen to God are also on the move.  Anyone who stops and wants to turn a particular moment into a monument will soon be wondering where God has gone” (33).

Maybe I am missing “it.”  Missing God, missing beauty, truth, goodness, even happiness, because, like Peter, instead of experiencing moments, I am stuck trying to build monuments.

What if today, you tried to experience just moments?


About Samantha Curley

Hi! My name is Samantha Curley. I live in Pasadena, California where I run a non-profit organization called Level Ground (onlevelground.org). I like to ponder, ask questions, and share stories about life, art, and faith.


5 thoughts on “Moments versus Monuments

  1. Thank you for the information I kinda knew some of that but you enlightened me on a little more.

    Posted by Andrew Pelt | January 13, 2010, 12:14 AM
  2. Hi Sam, Your mom suggested that I take a look at your blog, and I’m glad I did. I’ve always wondered, too, about Jesus’ response to Peter. After all, Peter was only trying to be respectful! (Don’t you love Peter?) But I do think you hit on it, and I appreciate the idea of monument vs. moment. Here’s hoping I will live moment to moment this year and not get distracted with building monuments.
    Look forward to reading more!

    P.S. I also signed up for Seth Godin’s blog.

    Posted by Betsy Schmitt | January 15, 2010, 8:14 PM
  3. Some moments deserve monuments. Monuments needn’t be static or even tangible in a physical sense. Some moments are turned into monuments to help others experience or attain the moment, such as, for example, a piece of art, a building, or even a battlefield. Have you ever stood in front of Michelagelo’s David, visited the Jefferson Memorial, or walked the Gettysburg battlefiled? The trick may be in figuring out which moments deserve monuments.

    Posted by cpc | January 18, 2010, 10:52 PM
  4. This a really great post by the author hope to read more really soon.

    Posted by wisconsin union theater south pacific | October 25, 2010, 10:13 AM


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