And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only son from the Father, full of grace and truth” John 1:14

I once had a college minister tell me, “How could we as humans have known God if he had not moved towards us, put on flesh, and showed us who he was in Jesus?”

It was this verse and experience that came to mind this week as I spent some time with a group of Latino ministers who desire to raise up the next generation of leaders on the college campus. I was so inspired by them, was moved by their faith, and was given a picture of the kind of person I want to become as I seek to follow our redeemer into the broken places of the world. It was a beautiful time.

But I noticed over our time together that there was also a sudden and growing ache in me that was awakened over those few days. As I met different men and women who were leaders in this ministry and saw how they shepherded and cared for the younger leaders in their midst, I often found myself near tears. I was feeling pain but wasn’t sure of the source it was coming from in me.

There was one specific moment that was particularly telling of what was going on inside me and helped me get to the root of things. I was with several women listening to them talk about identity and how they related to the story of Moses that we had been reflecting on together. One of the women in the group vulnerably shared with the everyone, “I’m afraid to even say this out loud, but much like God was calling Moses to stop hiding and step into the calling of leadership, I think the next step God is calling me to is to be a leader in this ministry.” I was overcome with emotions as she spoke, hearing my own timid voice in hers, knowing that I’ve felt that same reluctant spirit in me as God has called me to step out into more.

Right then another strong Latina leader looked at her and said, “Yes, it is time. You’ve been hiding from this for long enough. Its time to be the leader God has called you to be.” It was such a powerful moment for me to see an older Latina mentor speak worth into a younger leader to draw her out and call her to fully live out the story God was inviting her into. I wanted to cry, and I wasn’t quite sure why.

As I reflect back, I can see that what was surfacing in me over those few days with these wonderful brothers and sisters was a realization that I had never had a voice like that in my life. I had never had the voice of someone who looked like me, had my story, and had journeyed before me in embracing their strength and leadership speak that kind of worth and value into me. In my 17 years as a believer, I’ve never had a Latina mentor. I grew in my ethnic identity not through relationships but through reading books and through the work of the Holy Spirit. I never actually had someone intentionally seek to reflect to me what it looked like to live out the Christian life through my culture. While I have had amazing people advocate and minister to me over the years, including ethnic minorities, it has always been in cross-cultural relationships. I’m so grateful for each of them and can see their fingerprints all over my life, but I guess there was always something in me that desired to see my ethnicity on the other side of the table from me all this time.

My heart broke as I woke up to this longing that I didn’t even know I had. I’ve walked with many Latino and Latina college students through their ethnic identity journey in the years I’ve been ministering in this community, but I have never had someone walking through that with me.

As a bicultural Latina…I can understand why Moses might ask the questions ” Who am I?” and “Where do I belong?”

As I was processing all of this, we were also spending a lot of time talking about the life of Moses. What I most resonated with was the question of identity that Moses seemed to wrestle with at different points in his early life. In his experience at the burning bush, he even asks God “Who am I?”. I connected with that. As a bicultural Latina living in the liminal space fumbling through figuring out what life even looks like there, I can understand why Moses might ask the questions ” Who am I?” and “Where do I belong?”. They have to be the two most common questions I ask consistently. And much like God’s response to Moses, his simple answer to me is often, ” I am with you.”

So, as I acknowledge my own sadness over what I haven’t had in terms of Latino mentorship, I also can say with certainty this one thing: God was and is and forever will be with me.

He was with me when my eyes were opened in the Arab world world and I first began to wonder if God made me Latina for a reason. He was with me when the desire was birthed in me to come back to America and minister among my own community. He was with me in the years where I struggled to know what it meant to be Latina in Christ. And he continues to be with me as I seek to figure all this out in each new season of my life. He has never left me and he never will. I am always home in Him.

So, as I look forward now to what God is leading me into next, I do want to find a mentor that can reflect to me what it means to walk with Jesus within the culture he had me born into, in the skin that I have, and in the vulnerable places of my soul where I still need his redemption. And I rejoice with more gratefulness for the incarnational picture he left us in his Son Jesus. He came in the flesh, looked like us, and taught us what God was like. Taking on our finite humanity, he helped us see our infinite God in the only way that we could have understood. I’m so thankful this is the God that always gently reminds me: I AM with you.
photo courtesy: le vent le cri