For my next trip I traveled to the jungles of Mexico. Having never been there I wasn’t sure what to expect. I definitely didn’t expect to get the spiritual equivalent to a punch in the face but that’s exactly what I got! More like a few solid punches… All of these involved a full day trip to Chichen Itza to explore the Mayan Ruins. For those of you who don’t know me, my undergraduate degree is in history. Ancient history is my thing. I love learning about past civilizations and the amazing things they accomplished and created. So as you can imagine, I was jazzed to be heading to this amazing site! On our way there our tour guide spent several hours sharing facts and stories about the ancient culture, their accomplishments, and their religion. That’s when things got weird.
Normally I love this type of stuff. Mythology courses were always my favorite in college. The way all the gods have stories that intertwine and rationalize what people back then couldn’t explain is fascinating (insert nerd comment here). Most ancient cultures have a similar storyline, multiple deities, and statues or idols of them. Again, no surprises that the Mayan culture has all of these. It was however, a big surprise when our tour guide pulled out a tiny statue of one of the gods and proceeded to tell us he follows this ancient Mayan religion and prays to these statues. He also then told us we would be meeting a Mayan shaman who would perform a ceremony of blessing on some of us lucky tourists. He would also be blessing any merchandise we purchased for a small fee. We learned about four of the Mayan deities before we got to the shaman. I forget their names but they consisted of gods of healing, power, knowledge, and fertility. Once we were stopped our tour guide pulled people out of our group to be “blessed” by the shaman. And can you guess what lucky girl was yanked from her hiding spot in the back of the group to be given a fertility blessing?
Yep, this girl. It’s important to pause here and say I am an introvert who does not like being at the center of attention at all. I also won’t even buy a goldfish due to the level of commitment so the idea of having a child is out of the question right now (blog post diving into that later). So one could say I was not at all happy about this situation. During the ceremony I was already uncomfortable but was then hit with a scary feeling. There was a presence there that was definitely spiritual, but not Godly. Punch number one, direct hit. I’ll stop again before you start thinking I’m getting spooky to just confirm it and say I believe 100% in a spiritual world. Not only does the Bible talk about it at length, but too many things have happened to me for me to ever deny that fact. If I had forgotten the notion that the enemy takes many forms and is very powerful I was reminded that day. I immediate started praying imagining a Frank Peretti “This Present Darkness” type battle going on in the spiritual realm. The experience left me really rattled, spooked, and if I’m honest, feeling really pissed off and judgmental towards the people who still worship these stone Gods. Did I mention this was all on the way to Chichen Itza? We weren’t even there yet! First lesson I learned on this trip? Don’t underestimate the enemy, the different forms he takes, or the power of prayer.
Once we were there I got my apparently now fertile self out of the bus and began exploring. The entire site was full of contrasts. A weird mix of beautiful & morbid, advanced & barbaric. It’s weird to stand in places knowing thousands of people were killed in that same spot, but at the same time see incredible, intricate, and precise craftsmanship. I found myself needing to get a little space which is when I took the picture above. I found myself emotionally rattled and therefore lashing out with the thoughts that filled my mind. Things like how ignorant these people were to worship idols, and how much suffering had happened because they believe in these things. I am far from perfect but at least I don’t worship idols or murder people…right? Wrong.
Again, another spiritual blow. This time is was from God. This time is was a powerful pride check. Two thought instantly popped into my head and humbled me to my core. The first thought was one word. Phone. The definition of idol is an “object of worship” or a “thing that is greatly admired.” What is more sad, someone who idolizes a statue of a deity or someone who idolizes an electronic device? Wow. Not so high and mighty now am I? The second thought came from many conversations I have had with my dear friend Louisa. Proverbs 18:21 says that “the tongue has the power of life and death…” and one of the definitions of murder is to “defeat badly, to put an end to, to mutilate.” I remember her saying how we murder people with our words all the time and don’t seek forgiveness for it. Didn’t I just “murder” and entire civilization with my words? Yep. At this point I feel like Kendrick Lamar should have been singing “Be humble, sit down” over and over. I am guilty of having idols, murder, and also pride! What a broken creature I am in need of God’s grace daily!
Like most of my journeys, I went expecting to learn about the superficial and was reminded of my own brokenness and need for God’s grace & protection. As I plan for a summer full of travels again this year I find myself excited to see where God shows up for me.
Oh and the Zika thing in the title? No, I didn’t get the Zika virus. I spent hours walking through the Mexican rainforest and the only mosquito bite I got was in the back of a taxi in the middle of downtown Cancun. #irony