Juggling despair, grief and hope: morning after election reflections

031416 rock stack secureI don’t know how to write today. I have intense feelings, and I’d prefer to rail at the world. I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to blame. However, I’m still going to speak my pain and my heart.

I can’t wrap my brain around the results, or the deep divide I’m seeing between rural and urban areas, or the Coasts and the rest of the country, or frankly, along racial lines. For a significant number of people, anybody was better than Hillary Clinton — even if that someone was Donald Trump. We’re entrenched in two very different visions of the U.S. we’d like to see, and we seem to have lost the ability to communicate with each other.

This country turned out not to be the place I hoped it was. And whether it’s healthy or not, Clinton’s loss feels like an assault on womanhood (among other things). An intelligent woman with political experience loses the electoral vote to a man without political experience (and with a questionable business track record) who expresses racist, sexist, xenophobic sentiments. No, I didn’t like Clinton just because she’s a woman, and yes, I can understand why some folks don’t like her — though not the degree of vitriol I’ve seen this year.

Perhaps I’m most disappointed because yesterday morning I teared up on the way to the polling place. I was overwhelmed at the significance of having a woman as a viable candidate for President. I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime. I felt empowered in my womanhood yesterday morning, and then found myself feeling like a caged bird this morning. I’m suffocated by the limitations of womanhood today, and I struggle with despair.

Today God and I are having conversations about why He even bothered to create women and how to cope with the expectations of women leaders. By conversations I mean: I’m ranting like an angry Psalmist. I’ll spare you the rest of the details.

I don’t know how to say this part nicely, so here is my blunt request: please spare me your comments about God being in control. That’s not the issue for me. And, heads up, this language can be extremely damaging to hurting people.

I don’t want to blame God for the outcome of this election; I don’t want to send the unintentional message to my hurting friends that God endorses a politician with overt racist, sexist, homophobic and Islamophobic messages. Also, these platitudes can become an excuse for whites to stay silent on justice issues that people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants and Muslims are facing.

Trusting God is not a free pass to silence or ignore the very real pain of others. Why? God cares deeply for these people.  Yes, God cares deeply for you, too. But right now, from conversations I’m hearing and seeing, many in those communities have heard this message loud and clear: we don’t care about you or your pain.

And if that’s not your intention with the way you voted this election, speak up for justice. Don’t stay silent. Let people know you care about them. Reach out. Is that a tall order? Yes.

The road to reconciliation IS a tall order, and it begins with a hand that reaches out. And, regardless of your intentions with your vote, people are wounded today. That doesn’t make it your fault, and yet, the only way forward between wounded parties is for each to choose vulnerability and acknowledge the injury caused — whether the harm was intentional or not.

Even though God is bigger than this election, much will be required of us in the days and years ahead. God’s sovereignty is not an excuse for human complacency, laziness or apathy.

And while I’m at it, please be careful with your language about reconciliation. People are hurting. Before true reconciliation can happen, we have to acknowledge and repent the wounds we caused.

Do we need reconciliation? Oh Jesus, yes, we do! But reconciliation requires something other than victims swallowing their pain while offenders march over them. There’s no cheap reconciliation. It’s costly, and it requires both sides to yield to each other. We cannot demand forgiveness without owning how we hurt each other. And that, friends, requires courage and vulnerability instead of stonewalling or shutting down the cries of frustration.

When it comes to the country at large, I’m not anxious. It’s an election turnover. These things happen. To borrow from Anne Shirley, “The sun will continue rising and setting, even if I’m not certain I want it to continue.” I can accept this part. We cast our votes, but the outcomes aren’t solely up to us. And I even respect the electoral college process because it keeps areas with bigger populations from presiding over the rest of the country. It balances out geography and the popular vote. We’ll all be in the outcome of the election together, for better or worse.

God and I are good. This doesn’t undermine my confidence in God’s work in the world. But, friends, I’m grieving loss of hope for the evangelical Church where I grew up. I’m tired. And I’m struggling with the things I’ve learned that I cannot ignore or forget. These are the issues breaking me.

I’m weary of a white evangelical world that thinks sexually assaulting women is okay when a white man does it. Or at least, that it is still better than Clinton. A white evangelical world that’s comfortable with hate speech. A white evangelical world that is increasingly uninterested in and disconnected from the marginalized and the oppressed. A white evangelical world which sees itself as the victim and overlooks its culpability in oppressing others. A white evangelical world which deems women incapable of leadership.

Maybe the white evangelical never cared about those audiences anyway, and I’m now forced to recognize the reality other people have pointed out for years. I had higher expectations for professed followers of Jesus. I’m struggling to reconcile the Jesus I know with his followers who fear immigrants and people different than them. I’m struggling to hold the image of God who loves women with the messages of hatred toward women I’ve heard from others.

None of those messages are consistent with the Jesus I know and love — the Jesus who called us to love our enemies. What credit is it to us if we like those who like us and benefit us? Everyone does that. The way of Jesus beckons to something bigger.

The way of Jesus leads to the cross: taking up our crosses and following Jesus’ example.

This morning, I’m tired and disheartened. And even though I know it’s not true in the long run, the darkness feels like it’s winning. I know better. But, the feels are strong this morning.

Ultimately, evil doesn’t win, even if the skirmishes make it hard for us to see God at work. God’s still bigger than this, folks. The frightening (and simultaneously wonderful) element is God moves through human agents. It’s tempting to pray: “God, fix it.”

But, that’s the cop out prayer. It takes my actions out of the equation. God changes neighborhoods, communities and nations when we take his call to reconciliation seriously. God heals communities, not by impersonal magic, but by humans reaching out to each other and taking responsibility.

And regardless of how you voted, God’s calling for our hands and feet to be in this ministry of reconciliation. Where are we listening to the hurting? How are we helping?

What if we as a people said, “Here we are, God. Send us. Send us to our Muslim neighbor. Send us to our black neighbor. Send us to our white neighbor. Send us to our Hispanic neighbor. Send us to our immigrant neighbor. Send us to our Republican neighbor. Send us to our Democrat neighbor.”

What if we tore down the mental walls separating us and them, so that we were only us — all people made in the image of God? Not color blind or diminishing the differences between us, but celebrating the fullness of humanity. You and I and the neighbor who makes us bananas: all of us in this life thing together.

There’s work to be done, folks. There’s listening to be done.

God is still championing justice and mercy, and there’s still people doing good work in the world — even if it’s a little hard to see this morning.  And I want to be one of the people doing the good — no matter what the cost.

I’ll shake the dust off of my feet, and I’ll rise stronger. And I’m going to resist the voice of fear: fear that you won’t like me, fear that someone will try to shame for me this post, fear that I’ll lose followers when I speak my heart.

Instead, I choose to follow Jesus. I choose grace and mercy and justice. I choose to listen. And I will speak up, instead of sitting quietly on the sidelines watching how things play out.

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One thought on “Juggling despair, grief and hope: morning after election reflections

  1. Today I feel betrayed by the family we call church. Do not sympathize with me because my husband is not allowed in the country but through lengthy expensive processes. Then vote to not only build a wall but to make the process longer. Do not be kind to my child with brown skin while we are in your presence then vote for someone who hates anyone not white. Don’t say to me that I am a precious child of God and vote for a guy who thinks it’s ok to assault me. I’m trying to reconcile how I see these people we are supposed to call family, how to encounter and or engage or to simply avoid. I did not vote for either candidate, knowing I have to answer to God and my family as well as humanity. I will not stand by silently.

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