Shock and Awe

The Gospel lesson for Sunday was the Transfiguration.  Peter, James, John and Jesus up on a mountaintop, suddenly joined by Moses, Elijah, and God the Father.  Many of us have grown up hearing this story so that it loses its impact.  There is no shock and awe, to use a 90’s Gulf War term.

When is the last time that you experienced shock and awe?  Not surprise?  Not bemusement.  Not puzzlement.  Shock.  Awe?  I experienced it Saturday.

We were sitting around the dining table finishing breakfast when the dogs – Milo and Opus – started barking their heads off at the front window.  While they are prone to doing this whenever a dog passes by, they were particularly frantic, so we got up to see what they were so riled up about.  A large, paunchy raccoon saunters across our front yard en route to the hill behind our yard.  We all race to the back patio doors and sure enough, the raccoon is meandering up the hill, leisurely sniffing and perusing the ivy-covered hillside before eventually wandering out of sight.  A wonderful Wild Kingdom moment.

Our Brazilian exchange student was leaving to return to Brazil in a few hours with her her of 11 Brazilian teens, whom we had hosted for hamburgers and smores a few nights earlier.  The kids managed to clean up their room enough to show her Kidsword – the domain of the second floor of our house.  Up went a Brazilian, a Belgian, three kids and two dogs.  My wife and I remained around the dining table finishing our tea.

A few moments later we hear a commotion upstairs.  The thundering of hooves, as it were, save for there not being any hooved animals upstairs, and the upstairs not extending over the dining area of the first floor.  But this noise was extending directly above us.  Approaching with a massive commotion, accompanied by the fainter shouts and yells of our children.

As we rose to our feet, out of the sky dropped our two dogs.  They had gone outside on the upstairs patio accessible from Kidsworld, when Milo decided he should hope the 3.5 foot railing.  After some clambering he succeeded.  Opus easily jumped it after him.  Then, perhaps still fixated on the remembrance of the raccoon, Milo raced across the roof, perhaps thinking he could jump to the hillside from the first floor roof.

He couldn’t.  So he leaped down to the patio below.  Followed more reluctantly by Opus.  A drop of about 10 feet.  They both landed on their feet and scampered towards the back wall, unable to get to the hillside and the raccoon but obviously fixated on it.

We stood there in shock and awe.  Dogs dropping from the sky.  Something you are completely ill-prepared for.  You don’t expect it.  It hits you from out of nowhere and you find yourself standing there muttering incoherently (or unrepeatedly).

The dogs were fine.  No broken bones.  Opus broke his tag off his collar but otherwise they are unscathed.  I’m probably more traumatized by it all than they are.

So if Peter makes some stupid suggestions, I can forgive him.  What do you say when you have no way of making sense of what your eyes are seeing?  You do the best you can.  Sometimes God has to tell you to shut up and pay attention to what His Son is telling you.  Other times you just give thanks for stupid and unharmed dogs.

Shock and awe.  You can’t prepare for it.  You don’t expect it.  But suddenly you’re in the thick of it trying to figure your way through it.  Cut Peter some slack.  I know I will from now on.


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