I am with you. Regardless of your opinions, positions, convictions, now is a time with the potential to stretch you to your limit and beyond.
If you’re feeling worn down, I am with you. If you feel judged unfairly or rejected out of hand by friends or family because you see things differently than they do, I am with you.
For those who have seen the dawn come, the promised breath of fresh air after a long night of your concerns going unheard and your values tossed aside, only to have every move he makes condemned and every supporter condemned with him from all sides with such conviction you can’t possibly ignore it, I am with you.
I hear your concerns, your values, your hope, and your strength, and I hear how tired you are of the unrelenting judgment.
If you feel targeted unjustly for any number of things you can’t control and increasingly feel reason to be afraid, I am with you.
If all you want is to live your life without people telling you you’re worthless or worth less for something you wouldn’t change if you could, I am with you.
For anyone who has experienced decisions made by other people that take away from our ability to live well and how you believe is best, I am with you.
Whatever the reason this political climate leaves you feeling disconnected from other Americans and emotionally overtaxed, you’re not alone.
The past two weeks have rolled over me and grown down my spirit, body, and soul. It is not only because of political events, but also events at work and a suddenly massive school load. I find myself thinking of Bilbo’s quote in the movie The Fellowship of the Ring that went “I feel like butter spread over too much toast.”
My normally imperturbable sleep cycle has been on the fritz from the stress, and I woke up at 2:30am a couple nights ago and couldn’t go back to sleep until around 5:30am. I don’t have time, I don’t have energy, and I don’t have the emotional fortitude to give any more. But I have to. I can’t let myself just shut it all out. I also can’t solve the problems or do much to influence them. Of course, in solidarity with everyone who sees the problems, we can make a difference together, but just me? I can do nothing at all.
So, I’ll continue to stretch myself thin, and to care, and to support movements for justice. But in my own individual efforts, the only thing I have in me to stand for is love. I will love you and respect you and do everything in my power to be at peace with you.
No matter who you are, we agree on some things and disagree on others. While you and I each believe the issues matter and our similar or disparate positions are the better ones, I welcome you and stand with you.
If I believe your position results in human suffering, I will oppose it with all I’ve got, but I oppose the position, not people.
Some of the people I know (on both sides of any number of issues) will criticize me for this, saying that I allow the opposition to flourish. That may even be true, but I commit myself to being for people, all people, all the time. Forgive me for faltering in that at times.
Forgive me for not loving enough, for not remaining faithful enough, for not hoping enough, for not always being a light, for not always bringing joy. Forgive me for seeking my own comfort above the good of others. Forgive me for working hard to let people know what I think instead of trying to understand. Forgive me for not giving of myself enough, for not dying to my own desires, and for not forgiving enough.
Please, forgive me. Whether or not you do, I forgive you.
Here is one of my favorite Scripture passages:
12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others. 14 And to all these virtues add love, which is the perfect bond. 15 Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17 NET)
Peace and unity, stemming from compassion, forgiveness, and love, these are the things we are called to as the body of Christ. Without exception.
I do not mean to say to allow any behavior by anyone calling themselves Christians to go unchallenged. As Jesus says, “3 Watch yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him. 4 Even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times returns to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4 NET).
And in the words of Emilio Sandoz, a character created by Mary Doria Russell in the novel The Sparrow, “Someone regrets your discomfort. Even so, harm is not permitted.” This was said after another character tried to kill him out of fear. He summarily prevented it from happening, and then he reconciled the relationship.
That must be our response. We prevent harm. We do good for the oppressed and not just for the oppressed but also for our “enemies.” And we forgive and remain unified.
Every day over the last several weeks, along with other things, I have prayed this prayer, not just letting it tumble idly from my mouth, but savoring each line and steeping my soul in the meaning and imperative of the words:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. Amen.
-Prayer of St. Francis
Only in letting go and owning only the responsibility to live toward these virtues when the opportunity arises—toward all sides—have I been able to begin to stabilize and function again. I expect it to continue to be hard, the politics and my schedule and unexpected life events. I’ll be there for you through it all, and I hope you’ll be there for me. Together, I believe we’ll come through.