Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pick a Pass and Start Climbing

I drove over Independence Pass Monday, and it was the first time I have felt genuinely uncomfortable driving in the mountains. The only way to describe the road is narrow, crooked, and steep. I saw numerous places where the actual road surface had fallen away. The white stripe was missing and there was no guard rail. But, at the top, it was unspeakably beautiful. Exquisitely delicate wildflowers bravely staking their claim in the harsh wind and blinding sun, serving no purpose beyond delighting their Maker.
This road is a testimony to human ingenuity and tenacity, to our tireless quest to reconnect with our estranged planet, but mostly to an insatiable appetite to get to whatever precious commodity de jour is hidden away in Aspen. Been there. Done that. T-shirts were too expensive.

I drove over Cottonwood Pass yesterday. Cottonwood is actually 31 feet higher than Independence, but you wouldn't know it without the sign at the top. The approach is gentler, meandering for miles around and between the Collegiate Peaks before starting the ascent. The road is wide and well paved. Even the switchbacks have wide shoulders. Not once was I nervous. I ate my picnic lunch at a little turnout on the Pacific side of the pass, then wrote for a couple of hours. About midafternoon, I coasted back down into Buena Vista and, of course, Bongo Billy's, for a pick-me-up.

Two mountain passes. Similar heights. Only miles apart as the eagle flies. Two different worlds. One soothing and reassuring, the other terrifying. One easily accessible to drivers of almost every level of expertise and vehicle. The other reserved for those brave enough and sufficiently prepared to make the journey, and exacting a price from them for their audacity.

And yet, both yield their blessings and rewards to those who come.

It occurs to me that people see God in this way.

For some, God is severe and demanding, relentlessly driving us to greater depths of humility, greater heights of holiness, or both. A God of rules and restrictions who can be approached only through monumental effort and at great risk. A God who expects more from us than we can ever deliver.

Others see God as easy to approach, regardless of our circumstances. Warm and inviting and nurturing, welcoming all. The road is broad and smooth, and God even provides roadside assistance for those who break down along the way. A God of love and acceptance who requires only that we desire to come and be part of the family. A God who is never disappointed with our many shortcomings and outright failings.

And yet, both yield their blessings and rewards to those who come.

Acknowledging that all theology is metaphor, and that anthropomorphic metaphors are among our favorites, surely God is both of these . . . and so much more.

Would Jesus GARA about this? I think so. Not whether or not we "get it right." That's not even one of the options. Only that we embark on the journey.

Ciao for now,

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