Journal entry from Lake Titicaca, Isla del Sol May 30, 2014
The noonday sun was beating down on the Island as I climbed back into the private boat I rented for the day to explore the northern side of Isla del Sol. As the waves from Lake Titicaca lapped against the boat, my driver, his assistant, and I traded stories throughout the day. We enjoyed explaining cultural differences between Aymara life on the island and my life in the United States. Our conversation weaved in and out of Aymara legend, Catholic traditions, and Lutheran theology.
As we were hiking the bluffs earlier in the morning and my profession as a minister came up in the conversation, my driver-turned-tour-guide began asking for my opinions on the things that he had very clear views on – the after-life, women’s rights in Bolivia, violence in the campo, education for women in Latin America, forgiving one’s enemies, etc. Between me catching breaths to share my views, he would insert commentary on the scenery around us and the Incan ruins that littered the Lake’s shore. “I pray for my children, because I know that life is harder these days for them than it was for me in many ways,” he said to me as we made our descent back toward the boat. “Especially for my daughters because I know that machismo is a reality they must fight against every single day.” He continued telling me more about his life, his faith, and his hopes for his children.
Now we were back in the boat, making the long trip back to Copacabana. I shut my eyes to take a quick nap.
About thirty minutes into the ride I hear his voice behind me ask, “Raquel, can I ask you something?”
I open my eyes and I turn to face him. “Sure, ask me anything.”
He adjusts his baseball cap over his forehead. “I divorced my wife a number of years ago and remarried…I am happy in my new marriage and know it is better this way, but I feel like a bad father and I feel guilty for divorcing my wife. I don’t want my children to grow up and be mad at me.”
“Sometimes when we feel guilty about something we’ve done, it is a sign we need to ask for forgiveness. Have you asked for forgiveness?”
“Yes, everyday, I ask God to forgive me for my mistake, for being a bad father.”
“How long ago did this happen?” I ask.
“Seven years ago,” he replies.
“Wow, that is a long time to believe that God hasn’t forgiven you and that you are a bad father,” I say as I move closer to his perch in the back of the boat. “From what I heard you say to me while we were hiking, your love for your children motivates most of the decisions you make.”
“Yes, of course. I love them and I love spending time with them,” he says, removing his baseball cap.
“Sounds like you are loved by your children and that they think you are a good father,” I say to him. “You know, the first time you asked for forgiveness seven years ago, God forgave you, dear brother. God forgives you. God loves you. But maybe it would be beneficial to share these feelings with your kids – let them know how you have felt guilty and ask them for their forgiveness. Perhaps that is the missing piece of your healing. I know that in my own experience, having a forgiving conversation with each of my parents after their divorce really aided in us moving forward in our relationships.”
His eyes squint at me, “Wait, God forgives me the first time I ask?”
“Yes, that’s called grace. God forgives you and you get a new start. Just like that.”
His eyes grow lighter as if they have tossed off the weight they have been carrying for seven years.
“God forgives me…just like that,” he whispers as his eyes fill with tears. He looks over his shoulder at the Lake. “Thank you, I feel at peace for the first time…I think you’re right, I should talk to my kids and let them know that I am sorry if I have hurt them and let them know that I love them.”
“I’ll be praying for you as you have those conversations and I will pray that tomorrow morning when you wake up, you can remember the forgiveness that God offers you every day.”
“Gracias, Raquel,” he says to me as we approach Copacabana’s shore, “I feel at peace.”
“That’s grace,” I say as I smile at him and stand to hop out onto the dock.
“Grace…” he repeats as he hugs me and waves good-bye.
An integral part of telling and living one’s story is to discover the narratives we were never meant to carry – the lies we believe about ourselves and out of which we operate and relate to others. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
We are beckoned to release he lies and narratives of destruction so that we may fully embrace a new story – the True Story of who we are – beloved and treasured creatures destined for abundant life alongside God and one another. Being here in La Paz is teaching me to fix my eyes on the Author of our story, my story, this day and every day so that we are able to become free from those destructive narratives that bind us. We were made to be strong, bold, courageous, free.
The True Story about us, what the Gospel ways, is Love. And this Love God has for us, can be recognized when we are Unbound from the narratives of destruction. The fingerprints of the Gospel are the words and experiences that unshackle us, unbind us from what holds us bound and constricted. We were made to run in the spacious spaces within our hearts, our healed scars, and the in the world around us. As the Psalmist wrote, “God brought me out to a spacious place; he delivered me, for in me God takes delight.” (Psalm 18:19). We are made free by the Love, the delight, God has in us. We become unshackeled by a boundless delight, a limitless enamoring, a borderless Story that runs alongside us as we learn to walk, to stumble, to dance, to love, and to run unbound.
Learning to Run Unbound,