by Kevin Burton
One of my frequent prayers is that God will “open the doors that need to be open and close the doors that need to be closed.”
This is a necessary prayer because I can’t see around time corners to see the future and I’m not always so good at the present.
I also pray that God would slam those closed doors forcefully, because I can be slow to pick up on things. God of course was doing this even before I thought to pray it.
When I was 18 or 19, I got engaged to a girl who was a bad match for me. That relationship didn’t last through the distance of her going to high school in Ohio and me starting college in Kansas.
Within a few years I would go off to work in Mexico, then Alaska. She would sooner have gone to the moon. She would stay close to home in Ohio and start producing babies rapid fire, something I never wanted.
I got this girl an engagement ring. When the relationship ended the jewelry store wouldn’t refund my money (of course) but said I could trade the ring for something else. I got my mother a watch, which she still has to this day.
When I look at it, I get a glimpse into my “almost.”
I got another look at the almost this week when I stumbled upon an article by Norma E. Cantu called Living On The Border: A Wound that Will Not Heal.
When I was trying to break into journalism, I shot off dozens of resumes with writing samples. One of the handful of newspapers that showed an interest in me was the Brownsville Herald in Texas.
The fact that I was legally blind was always a complicating factor in trying to get a news job. The editor liked my writing but said I needed to get a driver’s license, which I was trying to do at the time.
I had heard that Brownsville was a rough town but I promise you if they had offered me a job I would not have hesitated. Brownsville is on the US-Mexico border, across the Rio Grande from Matamoros in the Mexican State of Tamaulipas.
Here is what I missed out on by not moving to Brownsville, according to Cantu:
“Life in the geographical area where the United States and Mexico meet, the truth is always present. It gnaws at one’s consciousness like a fear of rabid dogs and coyotes,” Cantu writes.
“Beneath every action lies the context of border life. And one must see that undergirding for what it is: the pain and sorrow of daily reminders that here disease runs rampant, drug crimes take a daily toll, infant mortality rates run as high as or higher than those in third-world countries, and one cannot drink the water.”
Sometime after The Brownsville Herald and I gave up on each other, I read an article in Newsweek called “Borderland” which explained that the vices of both cultures meet explosively across this 1,954-mile strip of territory. The article said Borderland is a country unto itself, neither United States or Mexico.
Cantu is a native of Borderland, so her article details the joys and possibilities of the region as well as its stark realities.
“The pain and joy of the borderlands-perhaps no greater or lesser than the emotions stirred by living anywhere where contradictions abound, cultures clash and meld, and life is lived on an edge-come from a wound that will not heal and yet is forever healing,” Cantu writes. “These lands have always been here; the river of people has flowed for centuries. It is only the designation ‘border’ that is relatively new and along with the term comes the life one lives in this in-between world.”
In my early to mid-20s I would have been extraordinarily ill-equipped to deal with Borderland. It’s entirely possible I would not have survived it with the spirit intact, or survived it at all. God knew that and he closed that door.
For as long as my heart beats, I will continue to knock on doors. I will knock carefully and prayerfully.