In the past month, I have struggled to find the words to describe why I felt like I needed to leave Guatemala and why I want to return. While I don't want to share the details of what happened to me, I am grateful for my safety, the time to reflect on what I have learned and the space to be able to soak in the nutrients of greater understanding. I am also deeply saddened by what I have seen so far and while I will never fully understand the Guatemalan reality, I can safely say that I can understand why so many young people are making the difficult decision to leave. Though I have decided it is important to do everything that I possibly can to safely return to Guatemala because although I know that I cannot alleviate the suffering of millions experiencing violence, poverty, and oppression, my presence can remind a few who feel its weight that they are not forgotten.
What would it mean to run away from this reality?
I can leave, but you can't.
My life is more valuable than yours.
There is so much that is not in my control at the moment, but I know that by doing what I can, I am leaning in and living out my Baptismal Promise. This is obviously a lot easier said than done. I’m not going to lie, I have wrestled a lot with these promises when I’ve been faced with an environment that makes me deeply uncomfortable or when I’ve feared the very brothers and sisters that I’m supposed to love and treat like my neighbor. How can I continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, persevere in resisting evil, proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, seek and serve Christ in all persons, and strive for justice and peace among all people while protecting my overall well-being and safety?
What would Jesus do?
Jesus never includes a caveat. He never says feed the homeless but don’t love the gang member trying to feed his family by selling drugs on the street. He never says look after the sick but don't play with the children if you’re putting your life at risk. He never says speak up for justice but don’t say too much. Jesus’s life is a life on the edge. Therefore if I truly believe in Jesus’s teachings and have faith in God, the real question is how can I too walk towards the margins?
Okay so I know that I'm called to walk towards the margins but this still brings into question how?
From what I can understand, Jesus was not on the street every day of every moment, alone, and exhausted. He took the time to decompress and valued a balanced life. He knew his limits, taking time to pray and listen to God and he surrounded himself with a community of people that he trusted for support. I cannot be protected from risk but I can build a foundation that sustains me so that I can handle whatever I am faced with to the best of my abilities, inching myself closer to that which is uncomfortable.
Now tomorrow is my 25th Birthday, which has stirred up a lot of mixed thoughts and emotions, feelings of urgency, fear, uncertainty, and a little self-loathing followed by a desperate need for change. I have found myself reflecting a lot about the things I haven’t done and should do. The following has been compounded by the fact that there is now no concrete plan in place for me to return to Guatemala, spend hours a day processing the reasons why I left, and many more hours desperately wanting to go back. I am right in the middle of the unknown, a dark void that often fills me with deep anxiety. I hate not being in control, which is something I’ve wrestled with for 25 years. However, within this point of the unknown, I can also see the promise of a new opportunity to walk towards that which I will never fully understand, what I inherently fear, and that which will also always be followed by growth.
In this new year of life, I want to learn how to walk closer to the edge, turn towards that which brings me closer to living out my Baptismal Promise, and develop the resources I need to do so in a life-giving and sustaining way. Oscar Romero writes, “One must not love oneself so much, as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us, and those that fend off danger will lose their lives.” In this 25th year of life, I am excited to find love within myself that is not devoid of the risks that allow me to fight for justice, express gratitude for the overwhelming amount of love that encircles me, and explore finding calm to face the fear of so many unknowns.
This is a wild, scary, and chaotic World, and for that, I am grateful.