When you're feeling "too old".

*I received a message on Instagram the other day that asked about singleness and waiting. I get these sometimes from the sweetest women who are just wondering how to wait and how to wait well. The following is my response to that message.*

In the summer of 2010, I signed a lease on a one bedroom apartment after moving out of the one I shared with my newly engaged sister. I use the word signed rather loosely because I felt like Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” when she signs her voice away to Ursula without looking at the paper.

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Like, “Ughhh I don’t want to do this but I don’t see any other options.” I was 25 and most of my friends were married and buying houses and having babies. That September my best friend got married one weekend and the very next weekend I was a bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding – my younger sister, I might add, because if you’ve been in that position, you know that matters. (Isn’t the law of the universe that these kind of life events happen in birth order? Thank you.) So they were both putting together new homes with brand new wedding gifts, meanwhile my apartment was mostly empty and had mismatched furniture and hand-me-down dishes that weren’t even a complete set anymore. Devastated at my circumstances doesn’t really begin to cover it. Didn’t God know I wanted a husband? Didn’t he see me crying about this?

I grew up believing that I would be married at a young age because my mom was and my aunts were and my grandparents were and my sisters had no problem finding spouses so, duh, this was supposed to be a slam dunk. Except I turned 26 and 27 and 28 and 29 and still never had a steady boyfriend. I stood in the mirror on my 28th birthday and cried about my life, which is ridiculous now that I think about it, but at the time I felt alone. I think the holidays are especially difficult for single people or for people whose lives haven’t gone exactly as they dreamed. Christmas is a season of expectation and hope, but when your hopes have been dashed and you feel no reason to be expectant, it’s just another season to feel like God forgot about you because he’s busy blessing everyone else. Ouch.  

I know of a woman and have known her for a very long time. We’ll call her Karen. And from my very limited knowledge about her, Karen was never dating anyone and she was never married (that I know of). Well, turning into Karen was my worst nightmare. God forbid I turned 30 or 40 or 50 and was still single. I mean, that would just kill me, I was certain. I had no idea about Karen’s circumstances or if she chose to be single or anything like that. I just knew she wasn’t married and reaching the upper stages of her 40s and the color drained from my face at the thought of my story following that pattern. But at 29 and single, that’s the outcome I was starting to imagine.

One of the biggest lies I told myself in that season was that I was getting “too old.” I had a timetable I was on. If I didn’t get married in the next year, I wouldn’t be able to have all my kids by the time I was 30 and then I would be an old mom and my kid’s friends would probably confuse me for being his/her grandparent! And would my kids know their great grandparents like I knew mine? Not on this schedule, God! Come on!

We live in a culture that loves everything new and fresh – people, gadgets, relationships, etc. It’s like your engagement and wedding pictures getting 1,000 likes on Facebook but then the picture you post a few months after the wedding and everyone is over you like, “How many pictures do they need of each other? Ugh, we get it.” It’s like when you announce your first baby and everyone is so excited for you but by the time you announce the fourth people are like “Are they going for a Duggar situation or what?” It’s like 17 year olds modeling for a high-end line that absolutely no real life 17 year old children could afford to buy but then the 40 year olds who actually can afford it feel like they need to look like that 17 year old. If our culture loves anything it’s youthfulness. Magazines and movies and famous people (who apparently never age) tell us this, when in actuality they’re pumped full of Botox, and meanwhile make you feel like the three lines near your eyes are screaming that you’re 1,000 years old. Oh no! I’m aging! How dare I do that!

You know who loves to step into these lies about being “too old” and drop brilliant promises? God. He always uses the old and the weak and the outcast to accomplish his mission. He walks up to the ones thinking they’re “too old” and says, “You. Let’s do this.” To how many barren wombs did he give children? How many people did he raise from the dead? How many sick did he heal? How many outcasts did he pull from the dark fringes of society? How many situations did he enter where people were believing they were too old, too sick, too dead to be redeemed? The Bible is the story of redemption from lowly, unlikely places and with each new season we enter there is new mercy to endure and flourish and grow and learn. Culture would have us look back at our younger years but God asks us to keep our eyes fixed straight ahead to see the NEW thing he is going to do. That doesn’t mean I don’t use an eyecream here and there, but I’m not making an idol out of youthfulness either. God will step into the lies and speak promise, restoration, new life. He makes NEW where we think we’re old. He brings LIFE where we think there’s only death. There is absolutely no such thing as “too” anything for God to work together all the good he has for us.

It took a long time for me to understand all of this but God got a stranglehold on my heart one day when I was sitting on the floor in my very own kitchen. I wrote about the conversation one time. God came to me and asked why I was striving - why I wanted more than him. He offered me himself, pure, unconditional love and I was essentially saying no. I was saying it wasn’t enough. You’re not enough, God. I don’t want only you. I believed that having a husband meant my life would really start. I believed that having that prayer answered meant I would never long for anything again. The deepest longing in my soul was marriage, but in all that space of singleness God was teaching me that my desire should be for him above all else.

I realized after that conversation with God that even if I ended up to be Karen, if Karen loved Jesus with her whole heart and poured out her life to him alone, then I should be grateful for that opportunity. Even if I was 50 and alone, God would sustain me. He would be enough. He was writing my story. I finally believed that. A husband would not satisfy that longing in my soul. A house or a baby or any of my dreams fulfilled would not satisfy that place in my heart. I think it’s Jim Carrey who said one time, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer.” There’s only one who can fill that space.

I know that being single is hard when you have dreams of being married and starting a family. I know that it is. I’ve been there. I’m not going to give you a list of things to do or say or feel. Your singleness is entirely your own and feeling grateful will come in waves and lulls like it does for all of us, no matter what we’re waiting on. So I can’t tell you how to spend this season of singleness except that you might hold fast to God. Be as near to him as you possibly can, even when you don’t feel like it, even when you don’t feel it in your heart and you don’t feel him speaking or moving. Put him first. We always say, “Put those you love first,” well make him first! Spend time with him, get close to his heart, abide in him. That’s the best thing any of us can really do no matter our season of life. It’s the only place to find true rest, comfort, healing, hope. Stick close to the heart of Jesus and he will fill you, hold you, sustain you and continue to shape you into the woman he wants you to be. 

In the meantime, you will feel every single range of emotions - thankful for your singleness and anger about it, maybe even in the same day! You will probably feel sadness and you will feel a sense of freedom. You will feel hope and you will feel deep doubt. And you’re allowed to feel every single one of those things. But remember to dwell in the truth, not the doubt. Drink from the well of life, not the one of striving and hopelessness. Rest in his promises. He is faithful.

I signed the lease on my single-life apartment seven more times before God moved me on to a new season. And you know what I did when I had to turn in my notice? I CRIED. I cried about leaving that apartment. I was so sad to end the season that, when it started, I cried about starting! How fickle is my heart! We don’t even really know what it is we want because when we get it, we move on to the next thing we want! And we can always, at any point in our lives, get sucked into the lie that we are “too old” or “too” something. I fight against it even now as I think about wanting to be a mom. At this point, at my age, a pregnancy is nearly considered geriatric - and that’s not my word, that’s medical terminology. Translation: I’m going to be an “old mom”. Ah! My worst fear! But you know what? I know my Jesus well enough now to know that he has this all worked out. I’m not behind. I am not late to the party. I am perfectly where he has placed me in this moment. And I can rest! I can rest.

I want you to rest, too. You are not behind. You are not late. God did not forget about you. He has not missed that all your friends are now married and you feel like you’re the only single one left. Each time I felt like I was in that position, he swooped in and gave me sweet friends in my same season. And I mean every single time. Be grateful for those people. Be grateful for what he has given you rather than upset about the one thing he has not. God’s will for all of us, regardless of where we’re at in life, is just one thing, “REJOICE always, PRAY without ceasing, GIVE thanks in ALL circumstances, for THIS is the will of God in Christ Jesus for YOU.”

I know that right now he is positioning you and placing you and preparing you for exactly what he has for you. You are his. Stick close to him. He’ll lead you to a spacious place and grant you far more than you could ever ask or imagine. I believe it for you. I believe it for all of us.

Bold.

Aaron and I watched the movie Blood Diamond not too long ago. It’s fairly old now – like ten years old – so I’m late to the party on caring about this, or knowing about this, but I’m usually about five years behind the curve on most things - like puberty and marriage and knowing the proper pronunciation of pho. Anyway, this movie is about diamonds being mined in Sierra Leone and smuggled into Liberia to be sold. It takes place in 1999, when rebels were trying to take over the country. They were ravaging villages and kidnapping children and forcibly using them as soldiers and diamond miners. I can’t recap the entire story for you here, but bring tissues if you plan to watch. As the story progressed, I looked at the diamond ring on my finger and suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I had no idea this was even an issue. I mean, I vaguely remember advertising a while ago where people were really quick to say their diamonds were “conflict-free” but I never really knew what that meant. I didn’t even know to ask about that when Aaron and I went ring shopping.

The first thing I did the next morning was call the place where we bought my engagement and wedding ring. I told Aaron after the movie was over that I was going to call and he said, “What if they can’t assure you that it is?” and I said, “Well, then we’ll sell it.” I wasn’t going to wear a child’s blood-soaked work on my finger. I understand that this was just a movie and not necessarily portraying facts with 100% accuracy, but even still, the whole thing was heartbreaking. The movie finished and I laid on the couch thinking, “The world is a terrible place.”

Every day there’s something new to warrant our sadness and outrage. But what are we supposed to do in all of these crises? How do we help in this midst of all the terror and tragedy in the world? Donate twenty dollars and hope to feel better? Write about it on social media? Share an article? Create a hashtag and pat ourselves on the back? Offer thoughts and prayers and move on two seconds later to our own problems? And, we do have our own problems. We're addicted to drugs and I'm not just talking about our smartphones. We're lost in a connected world, lonely and competing and not measuring up. We're drowning out the noise with all manner of prescriptions and vices. Our students are taking guns and killing their classmates for attention because they figure they can't get our attention any other way. 

I watched a documentary recently about Cyntoia Brown. At 16, she was convicted of first degree murder for killing a man she thought was going to rape or kill her and there’s much more the story, including the fact that this man picked her up as a prostitute and her “boyfriend” is the one who sent her out to go make him some money. Gross. But in one of the interviews she said these boys she was with – these guys who she let take advantage of her and harm her –  she said they were all just seeking affirmation. They all wanted someone to tell them they were worth something. They all had wounded pride and they were building themselves back up through money, girls, sex, and power. They wanted approval. And dang it, isn’t that what we’re all seeking though possibly through different means? We're all just crying for attention. Validation. Affirmation. Tell me I'm important!

So dear Jesus, what do we do? What do we do that would be helpful in this chaos? What do we do that would matter? And the only answer that comes to me immediately is, “Share the gospel.” Share the gospel. Okay, yeah, but what else? Nothing else. I’m not even doing that. I could be doing that much, but I’m not. So that’s the only thing to do. That’s the most important thing we can be doing right now in the midst of all the fighting and pain. Share the gospel. Be the gospel. To our neighbors and friends. To our siblings. In our own homes - to our spouses and children. Especially to our children, who will go out in their schools and either spread darkness or light. Since there’s power in the name of Jesus, then just say it, speak it, bring it to the most ordinary places you go every single day. I don’t want to get so caught up in my life that I forget that I'm here to bring the gospel. "Your kingdom come, your will be done," if that's our prayer then we have to be the ones to bring the kingdom near. 

For those who know the gospel, for those who understand that there is a Savior we all desperately need, the only reason we wouldn’t share it is because we don’t think it’s true – we don’t think it’s what people really need or want. Or we do, but we’re too scared that they’ll think we’re dumb and we don’t want to be dumb – we want to be cool! We want to be liked. We want followers and retweets and shares. I know I’m guilty. I’m guilty of thinking, “How do I say this in a way that Christians will understand and non-Christians won’t hate it?’ which is just another way to say, “How do I make Jesus cool enough for everyone?” But I can’t. I can’t do it. He doesn’t need help being cool. He just needs you to speak his name. His word is living and active and he can do what you can’t. Only he can change hearts. Only he can change minds. Only he can calm war-torn nations and ravaged cities and shredded hearts. He’s the only one who can make a real difference in any of it. He can take that twenty dollars you donated and change lives. He can take that hashtag and make it impact the entire country. He can take your start-up and let it influence the world’s most powerful leaders if he wanted to. He just wants to use you to do it, start it, write it, say it, bring his name into the conversation. 

I read an 1873 sermon on the Beatitudes by Charles Spurgeon and he said, “The sight of a vast concourse of people ought always to move us to pity, for it represents a mass of ignorance, sorrow, sin, and necessity, far too great for us to estimate.” Essentially that any crowded room should bring us great sorrow and urgency because within that room are souls, hungry and lost – souls searching and waiting for an answer to their hurt. They don’t look like it on the outside, and they certainly wouldn’t say it, but the gnawing in their hearts is real if they’d only admit as much.

In a sermon a couple of years ago, Matt Chandler said that people who have been Christians for a long time can start to walk around with this attitude of, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, Jesus." And it helped me realize that I lived a lot of my twenties where I said, through my thoughts and actions, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Jesus," and waved him off like he was just a side item at the cafeteria of my life – something I could throw in the backseat and let him ride along as long as he was quiet. He could stay because I was going to need him at the gates of Heaven someday, but other than that he was an afterthought. He was second to anything I was doing. I mean, not always, but especially when it came to dating. I adamantly would not allow him in that corner of my life because I felt like he already failed me there. Because of the lies I believed in that arena, I’ve been shamefully timid, but not anymore. I yanked Jesus out of the back and put him behind the wheel. Now I want to embolden people to share the gospel and speak the name of Jesus. I want people to come out of the darkness and live with hope and faith and I’m a little afraid to suddenly step up and say all of this because I know I pretended it wasn’t the answer - that maybe it was just the answer for me and not necessarily other people. But it’s the only answer to everything going on in the world right now. It’s the only answer.

I called the store where we bought my engagement ring. The woman I talked to assured me that because of the Kimberley Process, implemented in 2002, they were confident that the diamonds they sold were conflict-free. I breathed out a little, knowing this bit of information, although at the end of the movie, they note that even with the Kimberley Process, conflict diamonds still enter the diamond trade. But a lot of bad stuff happens, regardless of the rules and regulations in place to stop it, so we just have to do our best to make sure we’re not participating. There will always be sin. There will always be terrible things happening in the world. And that’s why the gospel is so important. Only it can step into the darkest places. It can change the darkest heart. It can stop sin and sadness and hatred and violence in its tracks.  Only it can give the validation and affirmation we're all so desperately seeking. And maybe people will say, "That's nice for you, but Jesus isn't for me. Keep that to yourself." Well, I'll be bold here and just tell you, you're wrong. Jesus is for everyone, and if you don't think so, then you haven't understood him correctly. If you think, "Well, I just don't believe that," that doesn't make it any less true. Pray for the faith to believe.

I just finished a Beth Moore study, but I read a lot of her tweets and follow her on Instagram, so I don’t know where I read this, but somewhere, plain and simple, she wrote, “May Jesus be obvious.” The cry of her life is, “May Jesus be obvious.” Amen. Can that be the banner over our lives? Since that’s what the world needs more than anything, can we just stand up and boldly live it? Stop living halfway. Stop rationalizing sin and start getting honest. Can we share the gospel? Can we contribute our little piece to this larger story by just living and being the very picture of love in the midst of seemingly insurmountable hurt? Look for lonely people. Show love. Share the gospel. And make Jesus obvious.

For the record, I don’t think the world is a terrible place. It’s a terribly broken place, but there’s a lot of Light too. And we need more people bold enough to speak up about it. 

“Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech…”
2 Corinthians 3:12

Dear Grandpa.

Almost three weeks ago, I sat in my grandparent's living room and talked and laughed with my grandpa and gave him a hug and told him I loved him. And then last Friday, I stood in that same living room with my family surrounding him as he drew his very last breath. It's devastatingly strange how life can change so quickly. 

I know that I am fortunate to even know my grandparents. Many people don't have that opportunity. But I have lived my life up to this point with all four of my grandparents, and even had the sweet privilege of knowing five of my eight great grandparents. The blessing of this is not lost on me. The greater gift has been watching them all walk with grace through life's joys and difficulties, loving the Lord and their families well. 

Over the last couple of years I have been reminded often about the brevity of life - maybe this has something to do with living next to a cemetery, or more so watching several families walk through heavy grief of their own. But I just want to plead with you to remember that life is so short. Don't wait to make amends. Don't wait to say the words, "I love you," "I miss you," "I'm sorry," "Forgive me." Don't let your pride or your anger or your fear hold you back from connection and relationship. Use your words to speak life as often as possible. It will all slip by so fast.

My grandpa lived a good long life, but it doesn't change the sadness I have felt. And while my family has hope in seeing him again - knowing he's more alive right now than ever before - I read one time that, "hurting with hope still hurts." This is the truth I've felt this last week. And since I don't know how to process things except to write them down, I'm sharing with you the letter I wrote and read to my grandpa the day before he died. I held his hand and read it to him so that he would know the truth about everything before he went home to Jesus. More than anything I want to share this with you because his testimony is one of faith and if that's not the point of this life, then I don't know what is. 

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Dear Grandpa,

We found out from the doctors this week that you’re not doing too well. We knew you didn’t feel very good and you kept going to the doctor and they kept telling you they didn’t know what was wrong. I’m a little mad at them for that – for not helping you feel better or finding the cancer sooner. So I’m sorry you have felt sick for so long. I wish there was something we could do but they tell us there is nothing more.

I could tell you didn’t feel well last week when I was over at your house, but you laughed just the same as you always have when you recounted life on the farm where you grew up. You knew exactly what I was talking about when I asked about your childhood home outside of Hickman and you could describe it just as well. I left your house that day thinking that we should have spent more time talking about your childhood – more learning about where you grew up and what your life was like so long ago with all your siblings and your parents. You were growing up during World War II so I imagine your childhood was a bit of a wild ride. We should have spent more time talking about when you met grandma and what your young love was like and what went through your head when you found out she was pregnant. We should have spent more time talking about those kinds of things – the hard things and the ways they forced you to learn and grow. I think we all like to hide those parts of our stories, but I’ve found it’s best if we talk about them a little more often.

There are other things I wish I knew more about now that I’m looking back on all that I’ll miss and all that we won’t be able to ask you anymore. I wish I knew more about your job as a mail carrier – you spent so many years riding the same route. I remember we used to borrow your uniform for a Halloween costume sometimes and you used to tell stories of people on your route leaving you gifts in their mailbox at Christmas. I wish I knew more about the trips you took to Estes Park with my dad and his siblings when he was younger. I just went there for the first time last year and it’s so beautiful. I can see why you liked it so much. I wish I knew more about the things that made you laugh and made you cry and the moments that you were filled with so much joy you could burst.

Grandpa reading to me and my older sister. I was obviously super into it. 

Grandpa reading to me and my older sister. I was obviously super into it. 

But what I do know is that you have a really good belly laugh. I have always liked when someone – usually one of your kids – says something really funny and you tip your head back and laugh. Mike or my dad could usually make you do that. But oftentimes you were the one making us all laugh with a quick-witted remark. I know you are the reason we throw around single Dutch words as if they’re a regular part of conversation. I know you love a good slice of sweet dessert and a cup of coffee on Sunday afternoons. I always liked coming to your house and sharing that with you because you never made me feel bad for wanting a second slice – you just joined in. You love Husker football and Everybody Loves Raymond and I’m fairly certain you’ve watched that Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation movie more times than anyone else. You love to talk politics and your conservative values have rubbed off on all of us. And I think you’re probably like my dad in that you know more than you ever say, but we have always needed your words and appreciate them more than you may have ever believed.

Grandpa, did you know that I remember walking paper routes with you and grandma in the summer time when my parents had to work? We were walking in the heat of the day in north Lincoln, slinging papers on to doorsteps and I’m glad I have that memory with you – of how you were a hard worker. I remember you working at the polling station at church during each election. It was nice to see you there, serving and setting a good example. I have always known the importance of voting and participating in our country’s elections and I know part of that is because of you. I remember growing up and having Christmas dinner in the basement and opening gifts and Aunt Colleen reading a funny poem or story that she wrote for us. I remember how grandma always made sure we had drumsticks in the basement freezer if we wanted one – but I think that was mostly for you too because she knows all about that sweet tooth of yours.

Grandpa, one thing I’m really thankful for is your decision to take your family to Lincoln Berean Church one Sunday morning so many years ago. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that choice because my dad met my mom in youth group at that very place. I don’t know what led you there, but I know you stayed faithfully for many, many years and I am so thankful for your example. I remember when you were on a video in the main service talking about tithing and how the Lord always provided for you and grandma. I felt really proud of you for that. You showed us all what it means to trust God and if you didn’t do that we wouldn’t be here today – none of your grandkids or your great grandkids. We’re all really lucky to have you, Grandpa. I hope you know that.

I’m also thankful for your example of marriage. Over sixty years with grandma and I’m sure there were hard times and great times and times that made you cry you were laughing so hard. I’ve seen some of those. But as I enter my own marriage I am feeling the weight of its importance. The weight of what it displays to the world – a picture of the gospel. So I’m thankful that even in the hard times, you stayed. You and grandma always stuck by each other and in a world where that is less and less common, I’m just thankful for your steady heart toward hers. I know you weren’t perfect, but you did the best you could to stay obedient and love well. I read one time that life is all about “faithfulness where you are, a day at a time,” and I think you did that really well and displayed that to all of us.

A couple of years ago, when you first got sick, I wrote in my journal that I was kind of sad I wasn’t married or seriously dating anyone yet because I really wanted that person to meet my grandparents. I know that many people don’t have the luxury of having their grandparents in their life like I do, but since you have been such a big part of my life, I really wanted my husband to meet my grandparents and that was starting to look less and less likely as we all got older and I spent another year alone. I had sort of let that dream go, but the thing is, we have a God who is near and who hears our cries. So when Aaron got to come over to your house and meet you a couple of months ago I felt like that was just the sweetness of the Lord in that moment. You asked last night at the hospital if we were going to have the wedding right then and there and I so wish we could have so you could be there to witness it.

I guess what I want you to know the most is that we’re thankful and we love you – all of us. Your whole family. We’re thankful for God’s gift to give you to us as our dad and grandpa. And we’re so proud of you. I don’t know what Heaven is going to be like, but I was sitting outside today on my break at work – the sun was shining down on my skin and there was a cool breeze floating through the air and I was just hoping that that’s the kind of sweet peace we’ll all feel in Heaven. I know it will be more than we could ever imagine – more glory and comfort and peace. I know that when you get to walk through the gates, you’re going to feel at home – more at home than you have ever felt here. We’ll miss you, that’s for certain, but the real truth of it is you have more life ahead of you in eternity than the 87 years you’ll leave behind. And it might feel a bit scary and unknown right now but I am full of faith in knowing that Jesus will take your hand soon and say, “Welcome home” and any of that fear will be impossible to recall.

You are leaving a legacy of faith and a family coming behind you preaching the same gospel you lived every day. So you should be proud, Grandpa. It’s the most important thing you could have ever done on this earth. I know that when you see Jesus, he will tell you the same. That he’s proud of you. That you ran your race well. That you were a good and faithful servant. Thanks for showing us all the way.

We’ll see you soon. We love you.

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Hope.

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. 

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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,
Lyndi