Douglass Blvd Christian Church

an open and affirming community of faith

n open and affirming community where faith is questioned and formed, as relationships are made and upheld. 

Paul Valentine on Mexico

When Derek asked us to relate how and where we saw God in Mexico, I was immediately challenged. One of the things I wrestle with in my life is identifying God... so you might see the quandary I encounter in relating how I "saw God?"

I choose to be a part of the Douglas Blvd. community because I do 'see' something, I am simply unable to give a definitive name to what I see, well, feel really. I find at Douglas an environment where I am free to look, which is no small thing to me.

Derek and I had a conversation while in Mexico about naming (i.e., identifying) God. As the story goes in the Tanakh, when God first revealed to Moses, Moses asked God's name. God replied "I am." That's the best I can do when it comes to identifying God. It seems to me that God is.

Also in the Tanakh, there is a story of Elijah as he neared the end of his life. He too was seeking a clarifying audience with God. Elijah was presented with lightening, strong winds and earthquakes... all grand shows, but God was in none of them. Instead, God presented in a still small voice. I think the message is: God isn't where we might expect God.

Buddhism speaks of the mind as the seat of a sixth sense where we encounter 'God," and teaches that if you look to hard, you will miss the divine, that you 'see God' in your peripheral vision. I see a similar theme in the Tanakh and what the Buddhists teach, that we encounter God in other ways than our five senses, though those may be affected.

Sorry for the lengthy prologue. But, in that context....

There are two things I want to share about my own experiences in Mexico.

The first regards the group of people I traveled with, those from Douglas. We live in a culture that openly declares: "image is everything." Indeed, substance seems to matter very little, if at all, as long as you appear to have or be something. But, remove the smoke and mirrors, and the magician is simply another person. There was little to no smoke and mirrors in Mexico to hide behind, so what we encountered from each other was often real.

While it is possible to maintain an image in a difficult environment, it's a lot harder, and often what's really there is exposed.

What happened in Mexico could be compared to putting 14 people in a small, under equipped kitchen and tasking them with creating a feast for 40 people. Some were experienced chefs, others had never used a spoon. This is the stuff of murders and mayhem, yet, there was none of that. Instead, we left Mexico having prepared a very nutritious and palatable meal. Where there was potential and ample opportunity for strife, I instead witnessed grace and humility. So, if you will, I often encountered God in my fellow travelers.

The second regards the people who hosted us. To sum up, one of the things that most impressed me about our hosts is that they live simply and therefore simply live. There were 33 little children living in close proximity... some might even call it squalor by our standards, yet I felt surrounded by whole and happy people. I witnessed 8 year olds looking out for smaller children, children actually serving each other as a normal course of living. They served without fanfare or motive for reward. If we define immaturity as self absorption, by that definition, most of these children had a maturity about them to be emulated.