Mountain passes are closed.
I’m not from a mountainous region; rather, I live in the vast plains of the Midwest. The prospect of driving nearly three hours through a mountain snowstorm seemed daunting. Yet with the mountain passes all closed, it seemed impossible.
So I thought about it often, prayed for things to work out, and nearly obsessively checked the weather and mountain pass website. The people I was traveling with didn’t seem particularly concerned, so I felt a need to worry for all of us. Also, I had rented the vehicle and was to drive through these mountains. I wanted to trust that the Lord would make all things work out, but I also wanted to not stupidly walk into a bad situation.
Generally, I like flying, but the flight from Denver to Seattle was riddled with turbulence. The uneasiness about the drive was only exacerbated by the bumpy flight. A headache developed, probably a combination of too much stress and a lack of sleep, coffee, and food.
Arriving in Seattle, my sister and I checked the mountain passes and, thankfully, one of them was completely open with no road restrictions. I was grateful, but the tension of the past week could not be unraveled so quickly.
After picking up our third traveling companion, we started the trek through the mountains. The roads were clear and open. The scenery was beautiful. Yet my stomach remained in knots and I felt sick. A few days of worry was wrecking havoc on me physically. We journeyed into the mountains and it started to snow a bit. The snow piled on either side of the road reached higher than the semis that surrounded us. Then we came to a complete standstill due to an accident. Sitting there, with snow starting to fall and stressed despite the fact that everything had gone well so far, I had to admit defeat.
As we waited, I had been close on multiple occasions to stepping outside the car, confident that I would embarrassingly get sick on the side of the road. “I think I’m going to be sick,” I told my sister. I switched places with our third traveler and slid into the back seat.
For the next 1.5-2 hours I sat there with my eyes closed as we flew around curves and over mountains. At first, I was angry with myself. I don’t like to view myself as weak and I am generally a very stubborn person. The driving wasn’t difficult and I knew I could do it. Yet there I was, unable to continue driving because I had let my fears and worries take their toll on me physically.
Instead of being annoyed with myself, I tried to do something fairly new–I accepted my humanity. I recently began reading The Way of the Disciple by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis. The rest of the drive I reflected and prayed with one section of that book.
Our business, then, as Christians and as contemplatives-perhaps our only business-is to work tirelessly at becoming destitute and needy orphans and widows who rely only on the mercy, goodness, and power of God….The Cistercian John of Ford, for one, exclaimed that he desired nothing other than to rest with Jesus as the center of his own poverty, the special place where Jesus had chosen to meet him.
And so I rested in my poverty.
Eyes closed, resting in the back seat, I told the Lord that I had worried and worried over this trip. I acknowledged how weak I actually was in that moment. Being with the Lord in my poverty brought about great peace. The Lord knows my utter humanity and He meets me in the midst of it.
There was a freedom found in that vehicle that left its impression on me. I told Jesus: I can’t drive this vehicle right now. He met me in that poverty.
I was empty.
I was insufficient.
And while He filled me up, He first met me in the place of my nothingness. He didn’t dismiss this poverty within me, but came into it. As we drove through the mountains, I asked Jesus to be with me. I didn’t parade before Him my accomplishments or present all of the situations that led to me being overcome with stress. I simply laid before Him my poverty and made no excuse for it. And, beautifully, He sat with me in this state of poverty.
But the only thing that God’s Glory can house within itself is the person God created us to be, and not the illusory selves we have manufactured; and so this Glory will often feel like a “consuming fire”, separating the gold of our authentic, God-created being from the dross of our fake self-constructed image.
“The Way of the Disciple”
This self-constructed image of myself as strong and independent was shattered. However, I wasn’t embarrassed about it because I had acknowledged my lack, my poverty. Jesus didn’t lecture me on not worrying or about how I should trust Him more. He came to me in this area of obvious limitations and made His presence known.
He wants my littleness and poverty because it is in these places that He can truly be the Savior I need.