“It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out. I want to repeat one word for you Leave. Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.” -Donald Miller.
These were the words I read as I was on hour number 6 of 23 of the long drive down to Juarez, Mexico. I knew that I needed to leave, not just to help a family, but I needed to leave for me. I knew that staying in one place too long had a way of suffocating me, and I needed to leave so that I could breathe again. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I was quite reluctant to leaving that Saturday morning when I crammed myself in the back corner of a van. I didn’t want to go, I was comfortable here. Which was exactly why I needed to go, I just didn’t realize it at the time. So that is how I found myself reading Donald Miller poetically write about change and leaving as I sat in the back of a bumpy van looking out the window at cows eating grass. It was then I realized that maybe that is how change works; it is like watching the land change. We wake up every morning dealing with the same problems, becoming stagnate as we watch the same cows eat grass. Then one day we leave and slowly over a 23 hour drive down to Mexico the land starts to change, until one morning you wake up and see Mountains and not cows eating grass.
I was shocked to find out just how close Juarez, Mexico is to El Paso, Texas. They are essentially one city divided into two by the border. One night when we were in El Paso, we went to a lookout in the mountain to look at the city lights. The only break in the lights was by the border, dividing the two cities. It is crazy that only ten miles can change someone’s life that drastically. I began to feel sorry for people born in Juarez as they were living in poverty and had to watch the sunrise every morning over the shiny glass skyscrapers of downtown El Paso. Just imagine for a moment waking up every morning in Juarez cold and hungry and seeing the sun rise over those buildings, knowing that only ten miles away those people had everything they needed and more. Then I spent four days in Mexico, spending time with our family, and I realized that I had it backwards. They were not the poor, we were. They had community and laughter, and all we had was an obsession with stuff, status, and social media. They taught me that life isn’t about trying to get more stuff and success. Life is much about sitting outside laughing until our stomachs hurt, life is about community, and life is about caring for someone just because. Life is about love and relationships; something that can’t be bought, horded, or found on facebook.
The first thing I learned is that having a bed is a privilege. Sometimes it takes something as awful as trying to fit three sleeping people on a van bench, spines twisting at impossible angles with butts half asleep and feet in each other’s faces, to really make you appreciate your bed. It made me realize how much I take my bed for granted. As if having a comfy bed is something that I deserve and not something that I am privileged to have. But I have more than a warm bed at night. I have more blessings than I know how to be grateful for. Only I am rarely grateful for any of it. About 10% of the world gets to enjoy the wealth that we have. 10 miles, 10%, why did I get to be one of the lucky few that won the life lottery?
Now I am back in South Dakota, having everything I need and finding that none of it actually makes me happy. I am worried about the same stupid stuff, and back to watching the same old cows eating grass. And I realized I really that hate watching cows eat grass. I can’t fit back into the mold of who I was when I left, because I am no longer that person. I can’t pretend that I am not changed, or that the things I once thought important now seem selfish and superficial. It is a hard battle, knowing that you have been changed, but now knowing what to do about it. It is almost like being stuck in this limbo state, unsure of what will happen next. I don’t know what God has in store for me next, nor do I know what great adventure he longs to take you on. But I do know that stepping away from your cows in one insane moment of courage will change everything. Although be forewarned, you may come back to realize that you too hate cows.