Birds are our greatest storytellers. Consider the ruby-throated hummingbird migrating from Central America to Eastern North America. These pajaritos carry generations of story within themselves. They are vessels of witness migrating from one place to another, much like humanity, and how stories themselves migrate across generations.
Birds do not worry about belonging. Their work is believing, faithfully, that they can journey across countries for what they were created to do.
Belonging is something I often crave. When I walk into a predominantly white space, I take immediate notice. It takes great will and effort to not put up a defense, a natural act of preservation lest I be too exposed. I pray more often. I have more labored conversations with God. Am I in a safe space? If I act too brown will they see me as uneducated, or will they use that to point out how “cool” I am – an indirect way of tokenizing me?
The space I exist in as a Tejana believer in a predominantly white evangelical culture is not lost on me. There is deep labor in inhabiting an in-between space. Gloria Anzaldúa refers to this in-between space as “nepantla,” which is the Nahuatl concept of navigating this space. I navigate various in-between spaces including language, culture, belief, and existence. While I navigate nepantla, I must be gentle with my own testimony so that others don’t see me as representative of all Latina believers.
We each represent such vast and intricate parts of the Imago Dei.
I find that simply being is the greatest act of resistance. It is also the place where I find I am most close to the Creator. Where I find that I struggle, God reminds me of the ground where my ancestors struggled before me. Where I find that I wrestle with belonging, the Most High reminds me for what I was created. As I continually migrate cross-country, across generations, and across mindsets, I believe God’s greatest work of justice is an equalizing rostrum for all of God’s creation.
Like the ruby-throated hummingbird, I don’t have a choice. Belonging isn’t freedom. Believing is.
The pajarito’s great purpose, no matter the weather, is to continually show up for what it was created to do. Justice work is slow work. It’s standing in a room in front of a crowd of people unlike me and opening up wide, even when I know I run the risk of being set aside for a more thunderous sermon or a more controversial epithet. I run the risk of still being misunderstood.
Like Moses parted the Red Sea, so I open up and risk people’s hesitation to be more inclusive. Like Moses, I want the sea to collapse where it will.
It’s hard to believe that we’re all going to make it through, but I have to believe that it’s possible.
To not be swallowed into white culture, I come back home where I find warmth during the cold seasons of my life. Like any justice work, coming home before migration is imperative to survival. It is dire to the preservation of our history and people. The ruby-throated hummingbird’s greatest miracle is that it carries on the life of its species by migrating and always returning home.
In order for our stories to live on, we must do the great work of preservation by migrating to and fro.
When I migrate mentally, emotionally, and physically across the country to a place that is far from home, I wonder about ruby-throated hummingbirds. They spend their lives in one area to work and in another to rest. I have to believe that where I am called will always produce work that holds greater purpose than belonging. Speaking on issues of justice, peacemaking, faith, and Latinidad will inevitably create dialogue.
These issues will also create silence. Yet, it is work that must be done.
It is in sharing our stories that we emulate birds and their incessant will to survive, remembering that belonging was never the point. Instead, blessing comes from remaining faithful to the call on our lives.
Photo by Andrea Reiman on Unsplash
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10 thoughts on “Being is the Greatest Act of Resistance”
Makoto Fujimura compares the believer’s migratory life to the bees, gathering all the goodness and carrying it back in bursting saddle bags to our people! I love the way you do this with your words, Carolina.
I love you and your words! I should be writing my own, but I had to stop in to say, dang girl. Keep at it. We are the beneficiaries of your faithfulness.
Thank you for your wise and vulnerable perspective always delivered winsomely and with grace.
Thank you for these beautiful words, Carolina. I had to step away and marinate in them before responding. It’s something I do, when a piece touches something deep within. Bless you.
I don’t know what it is to walk in your shoes, injustice perpetrated solely based upon the color of your skin. I can only imagine the deep pain.
But I do know this:
“It takes great will and effort to not put up a defense, a natural act of preservation lest I be too exposed. I pray more often. I have more labored conversations with God. Am I in a safe space?”
And the need to keep returning “home” to be preserved. In my case, from the seeds of bitterness and intense pain. For, it’s so very hard to see the very things that kept you in chains for so very long, be taught as truth to your brothers and sisters. At times, I have to retreat from these spaces to rest in the safe arms of my Heavenly Father, before venturing out again to speak what He calls me to wearing again His love, grace and compassion.
I’m so thankful that we are both being guided by a Heavenly Father who knows when it is time to migrate and when it is time to return “home” to be refreshed and preserved. God continue to bless the path of righteousness you are walking in.
This is so powerful, Carolina. You’re words are penetrating barriers, but with love. Hay que seguir!
Carolina, this avian metaphor resonates deeply, as I am daily delighted with the hummingbirds at our feeders. I will probably say ‘parajito’ in my head next time I see one.
Thank you for walking daily into a mostly white world, we are richer for having your voice.
Beautiful post, friend!
I love what you have said about believing vs. belonging. The image of the hummingbird is so profound – it does with such courage what it is called to do. We can learn so much from its patterns. Thank you for writing about this and challenging us.
So many wonderful lines here. “I must be gentle with my own testimony so that others don’t see me as representative of all Latina believers.” This is such a thorn in my flesh, still after all these years out of the academe, where the perception continues to be othering POC, where it is perceived we live in a monolith. Thank you for using the metaphor of the hummingbird–my husband called me that when we were courting. It’s such a motif in our family as well…I’m quilting a blanket for my mom with a bird on it and this account here resonated with me in a personal way.
Wow! So much to chew on here. I love the way God has designed creation to speak into our lives in its variety of forms. It all reflects the character of God. I learn so much from you friend. “remembering that belonging was never the point. Instead, blessing comes from remaining faithful to the call on our lives.” Truth.