Tuesday, April 14, 2009

le alabo todavía

(This essay - about a friend in Tijuana - was written for one of my college classes a few years ago, in response to an assignment to write about someone who has taught us about "the good life.")

It was ten years ago today that my friend asked God into his heart and life...

“Le Alabo Todavía”

Though we are the same age, his years have been filled much differently than mine. His choice word to describe his past is enojado: angry. When he was fifteen – after years of living as a thief and an addict and only months after getting a girl pregnant – he found himself kneeling at the altar of an almost empty church in one of the shantytowns of Tijuana, Mexico. He asked God if He was real as others said, could He change even him? When he tells this story, he often demonstrates how he went down on his knees angry and arose with tears streaming down his face.

I have known him for awhile now, and to think of those who have taught me much about God and "the good life" brings him to mind immediately. Maybe that is because I have seen how he abides in the humble acknowledgement that without God, he as well as his life would be far from good. I cannot put into so few words the pieces of his life that I have witnessed which have cumulated into a picture of what it is to be joyfully confident in one’s salvation and yet also gratefully aware of how undeserving one is of such.

When I consider the “joy of thy salvation” that David sings of in Psalm 51, I think of my Mexican cholo friend and three Greek words that share the same root: charis, eucharistia and chara. Grace, gratefulness and joy. “ ‘Grace evokes gratitude like the voice of an echo’…what then is joy? It is the subjective experience of gratitude for grace.”1 With tears in his eyes once again, my friend once spoke the following words to me, words that were just an echo themselves of the grateful joy in which he continues to live and which I desire as the impetus to my own good life: “El Señor me agarró de un tambo de basura; yo era un perro de la calle, no tenía nada. Si quiere bendecirme, le doy gracias. Y si no, le alabo todavía.”

"The Lord pulled me from a garbage can; I was a ‘dog of the street,’ I had nothing. If He wants to bless me, I give Him thanks. If not, I praise Him still."

1 Patterson, Ben. Deepening Your Conversation With God (Minneapolis: Bethany Publishers, 2001), 93.

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