Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. (Psalm 119:111)
While I grew up enjoying diversity, I did not grow up knowing much about my heritage—and therefore I didn’t celebrate it. On one side of my family, the older generations encouraged us to get ‘Americanized,’ in hopes of better opportunities. To them, americanization equalled opportunity. For them, dreams were things that often went unrealized, for opportunities were not afforded to those from a country where poverty was as common as brown eyes and brown skin…
The reality of my ancestors experiencing a new land brings me to think about how Moses and the grumbling generation of Israelites must have felt when they herd and saw the beautiful promised land but were not able to enter it or enjoy it. It is a fact that tons of my ancestors never made it across the border… For some of my ancestors, coming to America was a dream. For the indigenous part of my heritage, ‘America’ was a nightmare that came upon them through the idea of someone else’s ‘manifest destiny.’ When talking to other Latinas and indigenous people—both Christian and non-Christian—I have discovered that we are alike in many ways. Outwardly, we display very different and beautiful shades of brown. Inwardly, the fight and fate of our ancestors still brings a force of reckoning that is undeniable. And even though we may be separated by faith and last names, we share a commonality that unites our hearts—to make the dreams of our ancestors a reality for future generations. A dream to escape decades of poverty and to have an actual house instead of a makeshift shed. A dream to enjoy land, freedoms and rights that are equal to those who have migrated here. A dream of a life worth telling your great-grandchildren about.
I am that great-grandchild…
God, who is rich in mercy and grace, has given me a new life and a new identity. He has provided for me a heritage that will outlast all generations. When I read Psalm 119, it is verse 111 that inspires me and pierces my heart at the same time:
Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.
God’s testimonies are the countless and innumerable ways that the Creator has loved and cared for his creation and his people. From general revelation in his creation to specific revelation in his word, God has displayed his goodness, love, and justice to all. Maybe you’re reading this today and, like me, you feel a disconnect with who you are because of your past. Maybe you were adopted, or maybe you grew up not knowing one or both of your parents. Maybe you were taken away from your family, or maybe you had to make the tough decision to leave your family behind. Maybe you don’t know where you’re from. I want you to know that your feelings surrounding that disconnect are valid. Your pain and scars are real, and your story is not done being written. Because of his great love for you and me, God wants us to experience that overwhelming sense of assurance that no earthquake can shake. By grace we have been saved to be alive as God’s chosen people during this specific corridor of time. Even though we may have few stories of our ethnic heritage, we have a faith that is full of testimonies of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Ω
Reflect: What elements, stories, images or values shape your faith heritage? Where do you see God’s testimonies—that is, God’s goodness, love and justice—unfolding now?
What is this? Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. Traditionally it is a time of intense reflection and pilgrimage. To help you on this journey, Sanctuary has put together 40 stories from people both within and beyond the congregation, with associated questions for reflection and prayer. A reading will be uploaded every day of Lent.
From Elicia Horton,‘His testimonies are my heritage’ in His Testimonies My Heritage. Women of Color on the Word of God. The Good Book Company, 2019, pp 21-27. #Lent2021. Real People, Real Stories: 40 Readings for Lent, Sanctuary, 2021. Image credit: Rachel Coyne on Unsplash.
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