“The moment that you think something you do belongs to you, you lose the way.” – Rigoberta Menchu
It was when I was in my senior Latin American Culture class, as I read ‘I Rigoberta’, that I discovered this quote. Since my copy of the book was in Spanish, I looked for the exact same spot in an English translation so I could share it, in the same essence, with others.
It was as if I had found the holy grail—a way to navigate my own journey.
Since that senior level class, 23 years have passed. I have had roughly seven jobs in teaching and Christian ministry. I have spent four and a half years living in and studying another culture. I have moved 12 times and spent time all in-between in transition. I said goodbye to my Mama. I said hello to hundreds of new friends.
Like a weathered, leather-bound classic, this quote has stayed with me. I printed and laminated it for my Spanish students because I wanted them to remember. I shared it on my own blog a few years ago because the world needs to know. And I write about it now, to you, because its something that will preserve you if you lean into it.
To lean into these words is to guard our hearts from the seductive ways of possession. It provides accountability when we all-too-easily fall into the trap that things we do (or make or have) belong to us. It is a safeguard to a wilderness of our own making, where we wander, lost and out of touch with God and others.
Am I overstating things here?
I don’t think so. What happens when we lose our job? A child is sick or rebels? The church or ministry is not growing? The bitter fruit of our faulty understanding shows we have lost the way. We get angry. We become depressed. We get lost—numbing our minds and bodies and hearts to the pain.
It’s the oldest trap of all. Laced through all of our stories set in this fallen world. Didn’t Eve somehow believe that the tree, the choice, belonged to her? In an instant she lost the way. This is the inheritance of humanity and something we all must come to see.
But what if we learn to ‘keep the way’?
It was almost exactly four years ago when I had an extreme episode of hyper-mania (a symptom of bipolar disorder). I lay in that communist-style hospital, my basic dignity, ministry and home stripped away. In unspeakably hard ways, I was learning that none of it truly belonged to me. And too, that all of it, belongs to God.
So, as I walked the next days, I began to sense it was the Lord’s desire that I share my journey with bipolar disorder, openly, for all the world to read. I was terrified. I already felt so vulnerable. How could I do this?
Because not even this very personal journey truly belongs to me. If I open myself up to share my story, I create a space for the Spirit to work through my life. If I let go of the label being stuck on me, or my weakness being how people define me, then I can walk through a door called Redemption. I can see how courage inspires courage. I can find others who want this posture to define their story too. Together, we become something all together new, all together God’s.
I love more than this quote. I love, admire and respect Rigoberta Menchu’s life and story.
After her family had been killed in horrific ways, in exile, she narrated ‘I Rigoberta’ to Elizabeth Burgos. She could easily have held the anger and pain to herself, but she didn’t. She shared her story because it wasn’t ultimately hers alone. It belonged to the people of Guatemala, and to all of humanity.
But in the end, it is how this quote speaks to One Life extraordinarily. When the Son of God laid down all of His heavenly grandeur—the worship, the riches, the glory, the perfect relationship with the Father—He said it didn’t belong to Him. But it did! He had every right to claim it all. But he didn’t. He never, for one moment, lost the way. And in so doing, He made a way for us all.