I have been in this place before, feeling anxiety because of the plans I have for my career, supporting my family, and the ways I want to grow in my community seem out of my control and in the hands of the U.S. Congress.
It was December 2010, very close to Christmas, and I was being invited to meditate on the prophetic message of Hope and the people who live in darkness being embellished by a divine light. Yet, the night before Congress’ decision on the DREAM Act, I grieved profoundly. I lamented to God, “Show me this light that pierces through the darkness because I don’t see it or feel its warmth!”
I wanted this light to be an extraordinary miracle of changing the hearts of the Senators to embrace me as an American and grant me a relief in my immigration status. After grieving, silence was what pierced my heart’s gloom and the extraordinary happened. It was my heart that shifted and I understood this divine light was within me and will never go away. The light of Hope embellished me and made me aware that even when the external circumstances are so pessimistic, I AM ALIVE. The light of Hope revealed, “I AM TALENTED” and my dignity is not measured by my immigration status. The light of Hope unveiled, “I AM LIVING MY DREAM” of making a difference in my community as I empower young people of color through telling my story and in organizing.
I have been in this place before; the threats of 10 Senators to take away the limited and temporary relief of DACA. It seems that once again my dream of unfolding my vocation, of being a minister is not in my grasp, and my sense of safety and belonging in the U.S.A. is in the hands of others. Yet, I go back to that enveloping silence and the divine light of Hope that is rekindled: I AM ALIVE, I AM TALENTED, I AM LIVING MY DREAM.
Now, this place of anxiety of the unknown has become a spiritual crossroad. Not as much as to what path to take, but whether to react or not to respond. On the one hand, I can react by repressing my emotions and working extra-long hours to prove to myself and others that I am worthy; yet I am exhausted, anxious, and completely unfocused.
On the other hand, I can respond first and foremost to myself by listening in silence to validate my own vulnerability and to be held by the God of compassion. In the silence I write a list of people who have walked with me since I discovered that I am a victim of a broken immigration system and my childhood country just won’t open their hearts to see “us” as one of them. In my list I have my parents, teachers, friends, community of faith, and others. Although I choose to be in solitude, this list proves I am not alone.
The next step is to call a person from my community of faith and ask if she can simply listen and be with me. I want to let her know she holds a sacred space for my vulnerability and is a witness to the light that continues to shine in the darkness. As a young adult, working in ministry and finishing a Master’s Degree in Divinity, it is time for me to be ministered to and held by my community of Faith.
There are now 800,000 persons, who like me, are trying to process our anxiety as DACA is threatened. For us, this feeling of not belonging will continue until we are given an immigration status; but for now we will have to handle our anxiety again. Will communities of faith, sanctuary congregations, and sacred spaces stand with us? Will they provide open doors to spaces of silence, prayer, listening, and affirmation? This is our call to action that will rekindle the light that shines in every one of us when the darkness looms over us again and again.
Miriam Noriega is the program assistant in the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity Northern California office. She grew up in a first-generation immigrant household and is pursuing a Master’s of Divinity Degree at the Jesuit School of Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.
Photograph by United We Dream