My time in Mexico was a lot of things. It was character building. It was a chance to live more independently. It was a time for adventure and new experiences. I certainly learned a lot in my time down there. From language to culture to essential life lessons, I’m confident I’m not the same person I was when I went down. Now’s the part where I find an original way to say “Here are some of the things I learned that I think will benefit you.”…but I couldn’t think of a non-cliche way to do that so cue item number one:
THINGS NEVER GO ACCORDING TO PLAN…THAT’S FINE
“‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? ‘” – Matthew 6:25
I think this is one of the most important thing we as Christians looking to make disciples and further God’s kingdom can learn. Life is messy. We’re not in control. If something can go wrong it often will and if we get so caught up on what was supposed to happen that we fail to really act we won’t get very far in our goal. Learn to roll with the punches. I’ve mentioned before how we as humans try so hard to be the ones in control when in reality, life would really suck if things went how we wanted them to all the time. Not just because things would be boring if nothing unexpected ever happened, but because we’re absolutely awful decision-makers, especially when we don’t have the whole perspective (which is always).
I’ve found that protesting against something we didn’t have any control over in the first place accomplishes nothing. Even if we did have control, it’s in the past and there’s nothing we can do now. One of the things I love about Mexicans (and likely many other people groups) is that they don’t seem to get upset over everything that inevitably goes wrong. Maybe it was because I was staying with a group of missionaries, but it just felt like the people were a lot more content with the circumstances of life than we often are. They don’t see setbacks as something bad or negative, it’s just…life. No use getting upset over something going “wrong” when that’s going to happen thousands of times in our lifetimes. Better to roll with the punches.
FAITH OVER FEAR
“‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'” – Isaiah 41:10 NASB
Now I’m not talking about this in its normal context of faith in Christ conquering fear. What I mean by this is refusing to become so paralyzed by fear of what could happen that we refuse to act, missing out on much of what makes life truly living. There will always be things that go wrong no matter how much we try to avoid them. Our lives aren’t about being all nice and comfortable and safe. Someone who’s never gotten cut has never had a scar. The bruises and the blood are a part of life and are part of what makes it memorable. As Levi the Poet once said, “Comfort is no good reason for standing still, and idle hands build nothing that you can call your own.”
God is in control. Don’t let your worries over what could happen prevent you from truly living. All my greatest regrets have come not from things I did, but things left undone for the fear of what could have happened.
TORTILLAS GO WITH EVERYTHING
“Thou shalt eat tortillas.” – Mexicanus 1:1
Alright alright, sorry but I had to. They really do. There are a million dishes that use them in the meal, and the ones that don’t use them for carrying the meat or rice or what-have-you or for sopping up the soup or sauces that make the meals so flavorful. They’re really a useful little utensil for whatever your needs may be. Dropped a chicken drumstick on the table? Use your tortilla to pick it up so you don’t dirty your fingers. Don’t like the taste of that meat? Tone it down a bit by wrapping some of it in a tortilla. Whatever your food needs, tortillas have you covered. But now, back to the serious part.
RELATIONSHIP TRUMPS PRODUCTIVITY
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” – Matthew 28:19
This is the single greatest lesson I’ve learned from every single trip I’ve gone on outside of the US. Relationships with people should always be valued above getting stuff done. After all, that’s what Jesus commanded us. He didn’t say “Go and preach the Gospel and get as many confessions of faith as you can.” No, He said, “make disciples of all nations,” God’s focus has always been on the people and individual relationships over impressive statistics or mass evangelization strategies. He loves people. We should too. Never get so caught up in the flashy shows and mega conferences that you forget that Jesus didn’t care about all that. Those have their place, but the focus should always be on the individual.
I love going to places in Mexico or Haiti because the people are always so friendly. They care more about you and having a conversation with you than accomplishing the next thing on their to-do list. They’ll be late to work if you need their help changing a tire. This mentality of people over productivity seems to have gotten lost in our efficiency-based culture, choked out by higher paychecks and shinier cars.
These are just a few of the biggest things I’ve learned not only in Mexico but in my previous trips out of the country as well. I hope they’ve helped. At the very least, buy some good tortillas for your next meal. (just kidding, I hope that wasn’t your one takeaway!) Other cultures are fascinating, and what they value can teach us a lot about what we value, helping us better understand ourselves and others simultaneously. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the rest of the world. There’s a lot of beauty outside of our borders if you have the eyes to see it.