Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Down from the mountain

Photo of sunset, Telluride, Colorado, taken on my 70th birthday. God's gift to me.
The plan was to leave the old hag on the mountain, to let the old woman rot out there in the elements. But she got packed in my suitcase; she’s not leaving me.

Had I written this entry 10 days ago, it would have been different. Ten days ago, I would have said the trip to Colorado was a failure. I couldn’t breathe at the altitude, even though the altitude had not been a major problem in my previous trips to Telluride. In previous trips I was younger. I cut the trip short, lost 10 days at the condo that I had paid in advance, and flew home from 10,000 feet to an altitude of one foot above sea level. That’s a lot more oxygen and a relief to be able to breathe deeply.
The bold adventure in which I planned to spend a month alone, high in the Rocky Mountains, failed. My body bailed on me. My scheme was to spit in the face of my 70th birthday. People were telling me that I was brave, had such independence and spirit. And I gloated about how I was going to sit on the mountain with God, in the “thin space” between heaven and earth, where the voice of the Lord is deafeningly near. I wanted a mystical experience for my 70th birthday and I boldly was going to climb a mountain to get it. But like a scatterbug, I couldn't even focus on communicating with God in Telluride. I blamed Him for not showing up.
The old hag and I flew home to a giant pity party. Disappointment, shame, and embarrassment were at my doorstep. Poor me—I would have to report to all those who thought I was so brave that I failed in the great adventure. But after a few days at sea level the lights came on and I realized that the trip had been motivated, shaped by my desire to do something big, something remarkable. I wanted praise and adulation. My motivation was not so much to be at peace with God for a month but to show people that I could do it. I could see that my thinking was warped and then began to see that the trip wasn’t wasted, even though what it had to teach me was not what I expected. I realized that the entire plan to go to the mountains to scoff at my age and to get some great revelation from God was driven by ego, not by a desire for communion with God. It was totally about me, how I wanted to be seen as independent, adventurous, and deep.
The Lord wanted me to come down from the mountain, both literally and figuratively. He brought me down off my high horse. He didn’t cooperate with my silly ego exercise. He had other plans. He turned my mourning into dancing; He removed my clothes of sadness and clothed me in joy. (Paraphrase of Psalm 30:11.)
Honestly, it’s so good; not what I hoped for, but much, much better. It makes me smile to realize that I thought I had engineered the experience, but God stepped into my self-centered plan and made it infinitely better. It just looked like failure because it wasn’t what I wanted. He said, “Silly girl, why do you have to go high in the Rockies to be with me or to find meaning in your life? You can find those answers in the streets, in the shoe aisle of the thrift store, at the bedside of a dying friend, or in the quiet of your kitchen.”
It’s all good. I didn’t need to be on the mountain with my ego but to come down from the mountain to be with Him. What I thought was failure turned out to be a victory. I wanted to learn something and I did.


  1. Praying (by Mary Oliver)

    It doesn’t have to be
    the blue iris, it could be
    weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
    small stones; just
    pay attention, then patch
    a few words together and don’t try
    to make them elaborate, this isn’t
    a contest but the doorway
    into thanks, and a silence in which
    another voice may speak.

  2. Beautiful. Thank you.