I would not say that I ever painted all folks with Mexican heritage with the same brush ... I hope I did not. But still, overall, not the greatest feelings remained in my heart. It has been several years but I remember even telling some people at one point about these feelings. They were a serious issue for me and, even if I hadn't actively thought about them for many years, they remained a serious unresolved issue for me.
God sought to change that.
When the idea of a trip to Tijuana came up and God began stirrings in my heart that He just wouldn't let loose of, it was obvious that my chickens had come home to roost. God had things to teach me. I was going to have to face old prejudices head-on. I knew that, out of that, God wanted to knock those things out of my life forever. I hope and pray that has been the case.
Prejudice is a terrible thing. It stands in the way of relationship building but yet living in community relationships is a big part of where God calls us. It creates a hardening of the heart which can bleed over to all sorts of things. Cognitively, I knew all this but yet God used the trip, and the events leading up to the trip, as ways to show me the cold spots in my heart ... and shape me for a better future.
One thing that hit me as we met with various ministries and leaders in the Tijuana area was that theirs is a message of and a calling to redemption not condemnation. Whereas I had slipped into condemnation mold, denigrating an entire population in my mind, we only saw attitudes reflecting God's grace and love on the part of those we met with.
Of course, it's relatively easy to be grace-filled when you're referring to the victims of crime and injustice but even when these folks spoke of the perpetrators of horrible crimes, it was still done with a redemptive hope, not a condemnation. That is a hard thing to do.
It is hard to feel anything but anger toward those who support and profit from human trafficking and the sex trade ... our human natures want us to condemn ... we hear stories of abuse that make our blood boil and we feel like we could go out and enact a little vigilante justice -- a little abuse on the abusers.
But yet those are, just like ourselves, individuals where God's redemptive power can do great things.
As the result of this trip, I hope that my heart has softened, old prejudices have left forever, and I am better able to carry God's message of redemptive grace wherever I go ... the same redemptive grace that saved me.