Approaching the Border
“Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities and evil ways of the world.” — The apostle Paul, paraphrased
Last year my wife told me, “I think you are going to be the next one of us who goes out of the Country. I will work to support you in this.” A number of months ago, after I found out I was going to be taking on a second church to pastor, I received an email invitation from the Bishop’s office, offering for me to be part of an immersion trip to the Mexican-Texas border, along with other pastors/pilgrims from the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Elizabeth, my partner, is the reason I’m able to go, and for that I’ve been grateful in moving toward the Border. The previous couple months have seen me growing in my Spanish, through the school La Unión, that we contracted with to help us learn for this immersion trip. We will be boarding the plane in a couple hours.
So many people deserve my gratitude, as I prepare to go. And as the hours tick by, second by second, I am obsessed with the idea borders. The physical border between the United States and Mexico is a scar on the land, having been cut into the earth and drug north and south many times in the previous 200 years. Wars with Mexico and annexation of land from Native peoples have re-drawn the border several times. Border walls, fences, and molested rivers have change the look of the border, but, like brackish water, being neither fresh nor salty, the border remains a distinct mix, it’s own identity.
Even though I do not live at the physical border to which we are traveling, I am reminded that the present moment is always the borderline between yesterday and tomorrow. The borderline of “now” is, I trust and believe, a borderline that separates a worse yesterday and a hopeful tomorrow. I see how the border crisis has grown, And I have read the data of almost 1,000,000 migrants and asylum-seekers riding across Central America in recent months. And yet, I am obstinate in my belief that there are ways in which we can make tomorrow better than yesterday.
Christians call our doctrine of the future, eschatology. Our view of the future is one in which God gets God’s way, in which the Kingdom of God is on earth as it is in heaven. It is a future in which we can practice perfect hospitality, peace, and love of neighbor. My hope for a better tomorrow, as it relates to the border crisis, is a hope that the powers and principalities of xenophobia, anger toward neighbor, and false hospitality will shrink into the abyss.
Whenever one of my mentors was talking about the demonic powers of white supremacy in our Country, xenophobic nationalism, and anti-immigrant policy and rhetoric, this mentor said to me, “a dying beast always fights hard whenever it is on its way out.“ Even though anti-immigrant nationalism has been on the rise throughout the world, and even though it’s deeply planted within the heart of our Country, I choose to believe that something of this simple and sinful way of seeing “the other” is on its way out.
It seems like a principle of life to me that the closer we get to our goal, the more difficult the pursuit becomes. On a personal level, I have moved more successively toward the goal of being faithful, as it relates to ministry “with” and “for” our immigrant brothers and sisters. As I have become closer to the goal of being faithful to loving and advocating for my immigrant neighbors, many of my friends, family, and mentors have misunderstood, mislabeled, and mistreated me. To be fair, most of this has been on social media or in personal conversation where people have also tried to be understanding. Nevertheless it has been extremely painful for me.
On a personal level, national level, and cosmic level, we experience creation groaning, as with labor pains, whenever we come closer to our goal.
The border of “today,” being between the past and the future, is a reminder of how we are stewards of change, for every moment that we breathe. As long as we are here on earth, we have the ability to move the ideological, spiritual, and social borderlines in a way that brings us toward the Kingdom of God, love of neighbor, and love of God.
Later today whenever we journey down to Texas, we will begin a pilgrimage that for me will be filled with suffering, passion, and hope. We will not see the physical borderline of our country shift, and we will only become aware of the depth of the ideological borderline that exists. In some ways our American borders have been whitened and widened. We will see all of this, but we will also be the hope of change within the borders erected in our own minds and hearts.
May we come back with the borderline having shifted. May the borders of our hearts be closer to loving our neighbors. May we work in the present moment of today, the borderline between yesterday and tomorrow. And may we see Jesus at work, crossing these borders, tempting us to greater hope and faithfulness. Amen.
Post written by Jason Villegas. Originally posted on his blog. Used with permission.