After I voted in the election last month, I posted this on Facebook:
So we vote today and then we move onward and forward. Don’t let the choice of your neighbor or your coworker or your best friend change the way you view them. I’ve heard so often, “If you vote for _____, then I’ll really know what to think about you.” Believe today instead that everyone is making the wisest decision for themselves based on what they know and the experiences they have had that have shaped their beliefs. Believe instead that who your neighbor and your coworker and your best friend are to you on any other Tuesday is who they really are and the decision they make on the ballot is simply that – one decision. We are all doing the best we can with what we know and you are not better or smarter or more right for choosing a specific candidate. Don’t let today hold more weight than it needs to and don’t let today’s outcome drive you to despair. Today we vote and tomorrow we go on, continuing to live the way we have always been called – loving God and loving others and drawing people into community and life together.
I wrote it because of all the fearful rhetoric swirling around this election. I will admit there were times in the weeks and months leading up to it all that I felt a little bit anxious. I was vocal back in October about not being a fan of either candidate and that’s still the truth. But now that we have our answer to over a year of mud-slinging and fact-checking, it seems the world really only believed we could move onward and forward with Mrs. Clinton as president-elect, as evidenced by the level of mourning, lamenting, and gnashing of teeth happening on every social media front since the winner was announced. I wrote those sentiments fully believing that our nation would elect its first woman president, even though she would not receive my vote. And even in the face of that I still believed we would and could move onward and forward.
But the news is still overflowing with despair and defeat. Granted, I'm only 32, but it seems people are crying and scared and lost in a way that I have never seen post-election. In an interview she did with Oprah, Michelle Obama said what we are feeling right now, this is the feeling of having no hope. Eeeek! Punch me in the heart! Is that what everyone is feeling? Maybe. But what is most astonishing to me is the number of Christians who appear to be feeling the same way and I just have to say, what are you doing? Did you have false hope in a presidential candidate? Did you push all your chips in where they didn't belong? Because that’s the only reason for this level of heartsickness. I can understand if the person who held the office was our only hope, but we know better! At least I hope we do.
I was talking to Aaron about this and we both came around to the conclusion that if Donald Trump is the worst President we’ve ever had, it will still be okay. God knew this was the outcome before we did. He is not panicked this morning. He is not waking up to a chaotic world and wondering how it happened. He sees the next four years and the next four after that on into eternity and still breathes hope. It's like this illustration I heard recently:
Augustine, the bishop of Hippo, would say that to be human is to have your face pushed up against a stained glass window. You see some color, but you see a lot of broken glass. It is only given to God and those who are with him to be back far enough to see the whole window.
There is some reason for this election outcome, we just can't see the whole window. But maybe the reason is that this is our chance to really be the Church we’re called to be. What if this is our time to shine in the face of darkness? Like Queen Esther, what if we're here for such a time as this? The only thing we can do now is to pray for our President-elect, for his family, and for the people he surrounds himself with as he steps into a very weighty role. The only thing we can do is love our neighbors harder, make sure they know that we are behind them and for them and will do what we can to make sure that they feel included. The Church can and should step into that space. This is our calling.
The election is behind us (can I get a thousand amens?) and now we go back to our communities and love well the people who are around us, working with us, living next to us. I think it’s easy to say that – to just love them. Everyone can get behind that sentiment. Love, love, love. But loving doesn’t mean agreeing. It means disagreeing and still choosing to come to the table. It means taking opposing views and still going in for the hug and saying, “You belong.” I was listening to a podcast and he was talking about how we don’t really understand the gospel until we can get in community with people we don’t agree with, get offended, and learn to give and receive forgiveness. This is the heart of what we believe. So in the face of much disagreement and division, there is no better time to look at our neighbors and say, “We’re in this together.” Get to know them. Build community with them. Stop reading the news and start listening to the stories of your neighbors. Find ways to get outside yourself and help others. Offer the hope weary souls are so desperately hungry to find.
I’m not fearful or worried about the results of the election because I think we now have a unique opportunity to step into the tender places and be love and light and bridge the gaps that have become so deep over the last 18 months. We might feel broken and we might feel defeated, but we do not despair and we do not add to the noise because we know that it is in the broken and the hurting places that we can point toward wholeness and healing. We know the way. Stop acting like we’re all lost together. Christian, I want to look you in the eyes and remind you that we’re not lost. Do you know this? Did you forget? Honestly, what hope do we have to offer if we’re reeling in much the same way as someone who really has no hope?
I just finished reading this super great book called Boundaries and this should be required reading on the syllabus for human life because I think we're all so guilty of not having healthy boundaries within our relationships, myself included. So I'm personally working hard on this. But one of the things the authors point out is the difference between a responsibility for someone and a responsibility to someone. As the Church, we have a responsibility to step into the sad and broken places and shout from the top of our lungs, YOU ARE WELCOME HERE! We have a high calling to help people see the only safe place for their hope - the same place it was all along. How fitting for this time of year - the time when our very Hope came down to earth. Let's remember the words of our Christmas carols when we sing, A thrill of hope / The weary world rejoices. Do you know that we still have a reason to rejoice?
Rather than fear that our next president will ignite the end of all things on his very first day, rather than dwell on what may or may not happen, gather your people and speak truth and hope over them in fresh ways - preach it to yourself every morning. He is not our hope. The United States of America is not our hope. We move forward knowing that even if things turn awful and all the worst predictions come true, we do so with courage and a steadfast hope that these light and momentary afflictions are just that - light and momentary.
A couple of years ago now I journaled the words, “Jesus, be big!” Gosh, can that be our prayer today and tomorrow and into the next years? Be big today! Show up in new and significant ways. Be big and overcome the division, one conversation, one meal, one hug at a time. Be big in our hearts and quell the fear that seems to be running rampant. Be big in our world and help us to step into hurt places. Help us to remember we have hope to offer a weary world. You are our hope, now, at Christmas, on Inauguration Day, and always.
P.S. It has been a couple of days now since this post and I would like to add that I hope you don't read this as a call to inaction. It is most certainly not. If, in the coming years, we have reason to protest on behalf of ourselves or our brothers and sisters because our liberties are being denied, then I will be the first to say that we should respond. Yes and amen! But even so, our hope lies elsewhere and we must do well to remember it.
Grace and love,