Tortillas, Slavery and the 5th commandment


The pastor at our church is doing a sermon series on the book of Deuteronomy, currently on the Ten Commandments. For the last few Sunday's each commandment is given a full sermon and we are currently on the 5th commandment, which is God's command to honor our father and mother.

Let me start off by saying that at the beginning of each sermon there is a re-reading of Deut 5:6 which states:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery!

We are reminded every Sunday that God saved a people FIRST...and then gave them the law. Not the other way around. This approach to the commandments is a wonderful freeing breath of fresh air. Paul and I have heard many sermons preached on God's commandments, and never have we had the point driven home as much as the one of 

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery!
Now, don't have no other gods before me. (1st commandment)

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery!
Now,  don't make for yourselves idols to worship (2nd commandment)

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery!
Now, don't misuse the name of the LORD your God. (3rd commandment)

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery!
Now, remember to keep the Sabbath day holy. (4th commandment)
 
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery!
Now, honor your father and mother. (5th commandment)

Just by hearing or reading it this way...does it not sound more do-able? The powerful way that this reminds us of what God has already done, gives us the ability and the motivation to follow these commands, but most importantly done with the right heart and the right motivation. Obedience to these laws no longer feels heavy and burdensome, but light and do-able. I don't know about you, but I need constant reminders of what God has already done for me. 

The pastor touched on the premise that our culture/society as a whole, rebels against authority. ALL authority! Due to this rebellion of authority, the natural consequence to this rebellion can take many forms. It manifests in kids rebelling against parents, kids rebelling against teachers, people rebelling against law enforcement, people rebelling against politicians, people rebelling against store clerks, people rebelling against the workers at the motor vehicle department, people rebelling against doctors etc.

Basically each and every one of us is under authority and/or over authority of someone. None of us are exempt of this. 

As a former soldier in the Army, I know how hard it was to get my mind around submitting to someone in authority over me. I was, what someone would call a "rebellious teen" and this rebellion lasted until my late 20's when I joined the Army. (yes, I joined late) But thanks to good old basic training, I was re-wired to respect those in authority, even if I didn't necessarily like the ones in authority over me. 

Let me add that I was not rebellious just for the sake of rebelling.  I rebelled against my family, my Mexican American-ness, my identity. I was rebellious because my family was broken. REALLY BROKEN!

My parents divorced when I was five or so. We moved around more than any other family I know. (the last time I counted, it was 13 or 14 different apartments, homes, or other family members taking us in temporarily, across California, Arizona and New Mexico, from the time of my parents divorce til about the time I started high school, approx 16 years) 

My mother was a single parent Mexican American woman who only had a high school degree and very little skills...though I remember she was a good typist. She was born in a tiny New Mexico town known for its world renown green chile. She, along with her older brother, were left to be raised with her grandmother, another single mother, who had 9 or so kids of her own. (I can't recall the exact number) Her aunts and uncles became her brothers and sisters. She eventually left the small town, dirt poor, country life and headed to Los Angeles to start some sort of career in nursing. She ended up meeting my father, a Mexican immigrant from deep in the heart of Mexico and married. They were married approximately 5 or less years and then divorced. After the divorce we moved around a lot and we ended up living in some pretty scary ghetto places where drive by shootings were the "norm".

A little insight into Mexican American families is that we are an extremely close knit unit.... but in the midst of that close knit-ness, there is unapologetic drunkenness, unapologetic incest, unapologetic fornication, unapologetic adultery, unapologetic abandonment, unapologetic bar-scene living, unapologetic promiscuity, gang-member affiliation, an abundance of tacos, tamales, re-fried beans, pinatas, low-riders, unapologetic physical abuse in the form of parents beating children with wire coat hangars, extension cords or any other long hard object, cheesy red chile enchiladas, menudo, home made tortillas, chips and fresh salsa and random visits to the Catholic church for mass or a quincenera. (a Mexican sweet 15 party that takes the form of a wedding celebration to celebrate a girl coming of age, centered around the Roman Catholic church).

Mexican's or Mexican American families tend to be predominately Catholic (I was baptized as a baby in a Catholic church as were both my sisters) My mother left the Catholic church when my sisters and I were still very young, probably after my parents divorce. She then immersed herself in the Jehovah's Witness religion.

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery!
(I needed this reminder after recollecting all of that)

Traditionally it was or is RARE for Mexican immigrants or Mexican Americans to have close intimate friendships or relationships with white folks, unless he is a priest.  It's been slowly changing due to more Mexican American's gaining a college or university education. First and second generation Mexicans rarely had intimate friendships or relationship with non-Mexican's.  Third generation educated Mexican Americans seem to have the most change in this area and statistically have been more open to establishing relationships outside of the Mexican family unit. 

Mexican's tend to get their sense of identity and support from their own family, regardless of how broken the family is. If an outsider enters the Mexican family circle, it is usually through marriage and is typically another minority. It doesn't matter what other minority....just as long as it is not a white person. I don't know why that is. It's just the way it is. 

By the time I was 12 or 13 I started rebelling against all that encompassed the Mexican American lifestyle that I grew up in. From the outside looking in, it might have appeared as though I was just "one of those rebellious teens" who rebels against all authority, but for me, growing up, I just wanted a different family. 

By the time I was in junior high and high school, I engrossed myself in the study of the Jews during the Holocaust. I spent hours upon hours in the library dissecting story after story of the persecution of the Jews. I used to secretly wish I was a persecuted Jew in a concentration camp. I felt, at the time, that being a Jew in a concentration camp was significantly more meaningful than the life I had as a Mexican American girl. I know, that sounds pretty sad but If I am going to be honest, I have to admit that was my reality for a very long time.


I wanted this

 
over this!


I ran away from home more times than I can remember and eventually left home for good at the age of 16. I had moved away from my Mexican American family and all that it represented and moved in with a white girl I met at an alternative high school and her single mother. I was accused of "taking on white people ways" and I felt as though I had betrayed the family.

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery!
  
Now, here I am, 27 years have passed from the time I left home and the authority of my mother, faced with the commandment and conviction to honor my mother IN LIGHT of the reminder of what God has already done for me.

How do I do that? What does it look like? I have no earthly idea. 

I have had a very volatile relationship with my mother since the time I left home. After becoming a believer, I had apologized to her for my rebellion. I have attempted to figure out what a relationship with her looks like, but my attempts have been just that. Attempts. 

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery!

God brought me out of my broken family and adopted me into His family so now I have the freedom to honor my mother. I am trying to figure out what that looks like. 

God brought me out of slavery from a family legacy of abandonment, drunkenness, idolatry, promiscuity, fornication, physical abuse, adultery, incest, and everything else that keeps Mexican American families in bondage.  

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery!

I can now love my family with the kind of love that Jesus has poured out on me. I am still trying to figure out what that looks like as well. 

I was reminded today that God cares more about my disposition than my activity...in other words...God cares more about the condition of my heart than my outward behavior shown through my actions. 

After becoming a believer, I told my mother I had forgiven her and attempted to reconcile with her with my outward behavior and actions. I attempted to follow the law so that I could earn God's favor believing that God had only loved and accepted me just a little bit and I had to work for more of His acceptance and love. 

I basically used the only kind of love and acceptance I had ever experienced through my broken family relationships and superimposed those ideas of love to God's love and acceptance.  

I would feel defeated and unloved because even though my actions attempted to show reconciliation, my heart was far from the equation. I kept forgetting that I was already loved by God. I kept forgetting that I was already a daughter of the Most High. 

It has taken me several years to come to the deep understanding that God, through His Son, has already approved of me, hence why He saved me and justified me in the first place. 

With the constant reminder of:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery!

I am convicted that I should honor my mother....but not so that God will accept me....or love me...
  
but instead....I should honor my mother because God has ALREADY accepted me and has called me HIS!  

I am reminded that Jesus, who became a man and grew up honoring His mother perfectly, has given me His perfect track record of obedience to this particular commandment, thus freeing me to figure out what honoring my mother looks like. 

So, here goes my first, very public, attempt at honoring my mother. This is a small attempt, but it's huge for me. 

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery!

I am thankful to my mother for giving birth to me. 
I am thankful to my mother for not abandoning me and my sisters, even though she herself was abandoned but instead she kept us together regardless of how HARD life for her was. 
I am thankful to my mother for giving me a love of mason jars. 
I am thankful to my mother for teaching me how to make tortilla masa (dough) for home made tortillas. 
I am thankful to my mother for making tamales during the  holidays and the smells that accompanied tamale making.
I am thankful to my mother for giving me my sisters and my brothers. 
I am thankful to my mother for allowing me to spend so much time in libraries. 
I am thankful to my mother for making the best Mexican wedding cookies and biscochos. (Mexican sugar cookies)
I am thankful to my mother for having a sewing machine in the house so I that could sneak and use it in a feeble attempt to sew, thus sparking my love of sewing. 

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery!

I no longer feel ashamed of being Mexican American. I get to enjoy tacos, tortillas, menudo, enchiladas, and chips and salsa. I get to keep all the good stuff....along with the freedom from slavery.