We are at the halfway point, right smack in the middle between the dusty ashes on sweaty foreheads and the fragrant and frequent "alleluias" of Easter morning. In a sense we are wandering in the Borderlands, the journey between the shadows and disappointment of our past and the light and hope of the future.
I know a little about being stuck in the middle, especially as it pertains to living in the Borderlands. My family and I have lived about 35 miles from the US/Mexico Border for the past 11 years or so. For generations, people have called the 100 miles in each direction of the US/Mexico International Border the Borderlands. It is a flavorful blend of culture, language, architecture, politics, fashion, food and music that doesn't quite fit in Mexico or the United States, but is celebrated and honored here in the Borderlands.
Along with the celebration come a few struggles and challenges. Presently the Borderlands is filled with a heavy atmosphere of low intensity warfare with multiple layers of law enforcement in all of our neighborhoods, a thick cloud of racial profiling, and a heavy flow of illegal activity ranging from drug traffic, to people smuggling, money laundering, and more. The Borderlands is always somewhere between death and destruction and the glory and radiance of a new day.
Whether we like it or not, each year our faith journey takes us on a Borderlands experience. We spend 40 days with Jesus in the desert - tempted and torn, pulled and pushed, the challenges and evils of the world are punctuated and we either keep moving forward or we turn back and run. It is the Borderlands that shapes and forms Jesus, gives him strength and spiritual insight to confound and confront everything that is thrown at him.
As easy as it would be to run from the Borderlands of life, I would suggest that it is in these Borderland experiences that we are grounded and centered, it is in the Borderlands that life is made real and palpable, stripped down to the basics. It is in the Borderlands that we either find our faith and learn to follow on Jesus path or we wander off track deeper into the wilderness or desert.
I'm reminded that Johnny Cash had a Borderlands experience that changed his life. In fact there is a famous mug shot of Cash being arrested in El Paso, Texas, as he crossed the Juarez Bridge. It was during his wilderness years, when he was hooked on drugs, and was busted for smuggling a thousand uppers and downers into the United States. He was an addict, and on that border bridge it all came to surface.
It was the worst day of his life - or was it the best day? For it was on that day that he pushed through the wilderness, cleaned up his troubled soul and became honest with life; raw, filled with truth, even religious. He probably never would have gotten so good if he hadn't passed that way, through the Borderlands on the Juarez Bridge.
So don't be worried about the Borderlands. We should all be so fortunate to be pushed to deal with the real issues and purpose of life. Enter this halfway point of Lent with gladness and be prepared for the journey of a lifetime where you will dance across the tightrope between heaven and hell, between truth and oblivion. It is in the Borderlands where we find our true self.
The Rev. Randy J. Mayer is the Lead Minister of The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in Sahuarita, Ariz.