In the Mud

If your religion is one in which you are not required to change the way you live your life, it is one God rejects.

~Desmund Tutu


We left Ciudad Juarez a few weeks ago and I was  feeling a bit thrashed, like I’d been trying to run uphill against the wind. Questions like, “Really, just what am I doing here?” have rattled around my bloated skull, interrogating my ambition. The work ahead in this tiny speck of a neighborhood, forced up against the dry thorny mountains of Ciudad Juarez, this prickly little cactus of a colonia, often feels unconquerable. In the colonia lies a pile of need, stress, and pain, so high that it clouds the air like the dust blowing in from the obtrusive desolation around us. The despair is difficult to escape, so I have to be intentional about it. And not wanting to drown in a black sludgy sea of endless pity, I am impelled to explore the hiss and mummer of words like  hope and change.

Somedays I feel like an ignorant young man fighting for ideals and innovation, which feels more like I am spinning my wheels in the slimy mud. What am I doing here in Ciudad Juarez? What is this buzz-word called hope? Why am I asking all these people for money? Is it all really in vain? Can I make a difference?  Recently, I was told that I have this ambition because I am young, and that one day I will realize that I cannot make much difference. Really? Is it true that upon approaching a mature age, all of this moxie and fortitude will turn into the soft and sophisticated placidness of a seasoned man? I know that I am young and at times a bit idealistic, but I am choosing not to fall into the traditional rut that says, “this is how it goes…” or “this is how I have to live…” I am amazed that the children of God are the ones that seem to despair the most. The ones that in reality hold the hope for a future generation, the ones that have the ability to bring real change are the ones easily lulled by the heretical, dismal gloom-and-doom talk. Desmond Tutu said that we are, “agents of transformation”, Jesus said that we should pray the “Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, now, as it is in Heaven.” I am searching for a better way, and the best part is that I am not alone. There are millions of people that are turning their faces towards God with a fresh perspective, and with this comes a new horizon and an untouched landscape.

Not long ago, our friend Todd posted these words of encouragement. He was writing about faith that holds its ground against all odds.

 …So, is that what faith looks like? I don’t know. I do know that my faith doesn’t look like a dusty, old manuscript still sitting on my desk after 5 years of writing and nearly 50 rejections anymore, and that it does look a little more like the first installment of what God has just begun in me…

We settle. We get tired. We love tradition so much that we are going to line our coffins in it, lay down and crumble into the dust from which we came. It is our comforting blanket, our reason to stay home. Change is uncomfortable and greasy. It can be a psychedelic whirlwind of dirty, scary, ugly, painful, lovely, and good feelings. Different can scare the crap out of us. Moving to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico was and is like that. And though I love change very much, this one was like trying to swallow a cinderblock. I have had to stand back, step away from the illuminated pain and agony, and gaze at the whole and what can be. Trash and dust, forsaken young men running from the police, mangy dogs, families living under  sagging and saturated tar paper, malnourished little boys buying drugs for their parents, dissatisfied soldiers holding assault rifles; all are snapshots of a beautiful abstract composition: the aggregate of life in Juarez. These snapshots stand and live next to the overwhelming radiant color of young people playing soccer late into the night, 400 children eating a scrumptious meal, the richness of passing time with friends and family, eating tacos and elotes on the street corner.

Change does not mean that one has to pick up and move to Mexico, or even across the street. It looks so different for everyone. Our stories are different and as a whole they make up a sensational bouquet and each individual story is like a complex flower. And because life has ended up, turned out, or gone a certain way for so many people, I do not want to live with an expectation of less. I want to really live. I might fail, it might not turn out like I had hoped or even made up in my head, I just don’t want to stop the fight. 

 

 

 

Here is a link to an NPR report about our crazy city:

 Economy, Drug Wars Hurt Cross-Border Business

 

Palo Chino's Future

Palo Chino's Future

On our way to the kitchen.

Moon Setting in Palo Chino

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4 Responses to “In the Mud”

  1. “Somedays I feel like an ignorant young man fighting for ideals and innovation, which feels more like I am spinning my wheels in the slimy mud.”

    I think you are guilty on both accounts, but who cares? More power to you. Like talking to Crystal at Richard’s the other night; she’s clearly a wack teenager, and ‘wrong’ on nearly every point , but the energy is there.

    I think that if you are willing to give your energy, with out consideration of return on investment, you are doing what you’re supposed to do on the most important level. If everyone did that, we’d be fine.

  2. As I sit here and read another amazingly well written post, my mind somehow wanders back to our school days. No, not those of Montrose or Fruita but those in our playroom where you were the student and Amy and I were the teachers. Oh, how you would moan and groan about having to do the work we would put in front of you. You would even go to the extreme of rolling on your stomach, pound your fists into the ground, kick the carpet and cry. We never scolded you for such immature behavior, instead we would sit you up and explain to you that SOMEDAY our teaching and vast knowledge would be valuable to you. Like none you could ever receive from public school. It is quite evident by your lyrical words that that day has come into fruition. No need to thank me, I am merely your sister.

    Seriously…I love your passion Matt! You & your beauty of a wife are so inspiring to us! Keep on keeping on! Isn’t that a song…

  3. Aimee Says:

    A rare quiet moment brought me to your website. We often think of you two, your bravery, your example… Our oldest is getting ready to graduate from High School, to face the world and I am so thankful that there are people we know that I can point to and say to her, “Be brave! Don’t accept the limitations that others try to place on you. You can and WILL make a difference!” I believe in her. I believe in you guys! I am frequently grieved by looking around at young people who get caught up in stuff that leads nowhere, not because of their particular actions, but because of the denial of their power to change things that their actions are demonstrating. KEEP GOING! NEVER give in to some other persons opinion that you will grow out of your moxie and fortitude! I pray that WE can grow up into some moxie and fortitude. We love you!

  4. Thanks, Aimee. Your words are energy to us. We love the journey that we get to be on; it certainly is a season of stretching and learning. And though we will not do it right the first time, we will keep living, growing, and changing. It is beautiful to know that the Father is awakening hearts all over the world to a new level of living and hope! Love you guys.

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