[Patreon] Part IIIa: The Mountains (Colorado and Utah)

In the mountains, we remember who – and what – we are called to be.

This entry has been the hardest to write, and has been rewritten about twelve times. Three factors that tie into the struggle: What happenes in the mountains, what happened to me in the mountains, and what happens when I go to the mountains. Similar threads, but with different perspectives.

When I left on this trip, I was in a period of discernment – as many regular readers of this blog know. I was struggling with a spirit that cried out for the challenges and rewards of parish ministry versus a mind that was urging chaplaincy. While both paths begin with a M.Div, they take different routes through the fellowshipping and clinical education processes. I needed clarity, so I took to the road.

Coming into Denver on Day Two, I had a reservation through AirBnB in the “shared room” of a “private condo”. I was looking forward to it, as AirBnB has always afforded me the opportunities to meet interesting people in surprisingly good spaces.

Imagine my surprise when I got to someone’s “investment opportunity” – a two bedroom condominium, stripped down to a futon, TV on the floor, and a couple of basic kitchen appliances. The “shared rooms” had three twin-size metal bunkbeds. Yes it was clean, but it is not what was advertised.

I was in the kind of hostel that makes hostels look luxurious, just for the privilege of using AirBnB. Joy.

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At least the view wasn’t terrible.

Nobody at this hostel was interested in talking with anyone else, but I managed to get some planning done by using my phone as a hotspot since there was no internet. I set my sights on Grand Junction, Colorado, and headed west towards Loveland Pass.

That’s a lot of setup just to bring you, Gentle Reader and Gracious Supporter, to this point: the point of revelation.

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This was taken on the way up to Loveland Pass.
Mile marker ~233, I-70 West, Colorado.

Somewhere around mile marker 233, something special happened. But first, backstory – because what good superhero legend doesn’t have an epic origin story?

I was in these very mountains for a week two years ago. It was the week where I crossed the final boundary in my social transition – the workplace.

I scheduled a vacation around my planned transition date – leaving on 7/24 as Andrew and returning on 8/5 as Andrea. The week the I spent here, in these beloved mountains, was the first time I had been west of the Mississippi since Grandpa died in 2005.

As I transitioned then, and am transitioning now, so again I am here in my beloved mountains again, passing the exits I remember from our prior adventures and dreaming of the future. As Muir said, “The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

The air grew colder as snow flurries began to fall. I smelled the pines over the diesel fumes, and my soul is singing along with the call of these mountains to this Traveler’s soul. In the liminal space, on the road with the hum of tires fading into white noise, my soul whispered to my brain: “In the mountains, we remember who – and what – we are called to be.”

That sentence crystallized the internal division I struggled with. It was the culmination of discernment- for now I understood what my call was, what it meant, that it was valid, and that this was the right path. My interest in the good work of chaplaincy was my brain subverting anxiety and fear into a “logical action”. While the anxiety is justified, for even in the UUA our path is not as easy as we would like, I must be bold and confident because my calling is – and always has been – to parish ministry.

The acceptance of that core truth brought me peace on the long drive up to Loveland Pass. I looked forward to Grand Junction and Zion – but the mountains had more surprises for me in the interim. I will post the rest of that story later today, so stay tuned, Gentle Reader, and thank you for your support.