By Casper Zuzek
A little over a year ago as I entered the season of lent, I was feeling close to Jesus in a way I never had before. I was attending Catechism classes at my parish while preparing for my impending baptism- a time in my life that would mark a significant transition. At least that was the transition that I was preparing for publicly. Privately I was preparing for a different kind of transition. I knew that shortly I would be showing my whole self to people for the first time ever. This was the season I spent preparing to be honest with others (and honest with myself) about my gender identity as a trans person.
I’ve been reflecting on this season a lot as the anniversary of my coming out fast approaches, but in my most recent readings of the transfiguration story I have been reflecting on this even more.
Having moved to the city from conservative farm country, it had always felt liberating. But suddenly I felt myself longing for nights where a five minute walk could lead me to wide open fields with views of mountains and streams. Processing this new information about myself meant wanting to find God- and myself, in that way again. But living in the city made it so much harder. I remember standing next to the ocean in the damp cold of Vancouver February until my hands went numb, and long after. Trudging through muddy or frozen patches of grass in the small parks I called sanctuary from everything that was this city. Living in a city meant constantly being surrounded by people- something that became quite difficult when I was allowing myself to admit who I really was- but only to myself. Eventually, I did find ways to regain the closeness I had felt with the Creator when I lived away from the hard concrete.
It was during this time that I recognized a small fraction of the isolation Jesus must have felt; having not revealed his whole self to anyone, even those closest to him. It was also during that time that I realized the significance for me of finding the divine in nature. How I dealt with processing these big feelings in this big city drew a lot from Jesus- even if it wasn’t something I was consciously choosing. Over and over again we see Jesus leave the city in order to commune with the divine and be all of himself. For me the transfiguration story in Mark 9 is one of the most poignant examples of this. The story would have been a lot different had he chosen to reveal himself to Peter, James, and John in the temple or the city square- but it would have lost something very important. When Jesus took them away from the city and into nature, not only did it create intimacy because the four of them journeyed and arrived there alone, it was also a special kind of intimacy because Jesus took them to where he met with the Creator- out in nature.
This passage especially resonates with this period of my life because so often when searching for myself and for the divine I turned to the mountains. I often think that if it had been more feasible (and less dramatic), I would have brought those I was close to up a mountain to come out to them. There was something so comforting to me about the idea of allowing all of myself to come to light in a way that was so far removed from all the world’s expectations of me- and in the place where I first allowed myself to exist as a whole person.
In reality I did not scale any mountains on my coming out journey- except those that were metaphorical. But while lots of those conversations took place away from nature- in crowded Irish pubs, Starbucks drive throughs, and packed Cathedrals, the conversations that stick out most to me are the conversations that happened sitting on rocks next to the ocean, looking at the mountains.
As we move forward in this season of lent I invite you to wonder about where you find the divine, and how you experience yourself in those places.
Casper Zuzek is a white settler who has been living, working, and making art on the unceded territory of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh nations (Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside) for the past four years. As a queer, trans man who came out after being raised in the evangelical church, he is passionate about using his experience of growing up queer in the church to help other LGBTQ+ folks unpack issues of faith and sexuality. Casper currently serves on the discernment board of the St. Brigid’s Community, as well as on parish council of Vancouver’s Christ Church Cathedral.
Wild Lectionary is a weekly reflection on land, creation and environmental justice themes in the texts of the revised common lectionary. It is curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territories.