I have a confession to make: Over the last few months, I've grown cynical. (Those of you that know me well - stop laughing, right now.) I've begun to lose Hope. I struggle for Joy. The events that have unfolded in our country over the last year have hit me hard. I'm not sure why I was asleep to much of it in years past, but I was. Waking up has been difficult. I am, however, fighting my way back to Joy. And here's some practical thoughts I've had in that process...
Life is really getting out of control around here.
We should not be blocking our new Secretary of Education from entering a public school. Whether we agree with her appointment or not (and I, personally, do not), it IS now her appointment, her job - blocking her from doing her job is only hurting us all. But, neither should we just sit back in resignation and not pay attention to HOW she does her job. Let her do it, but be alert. If we see public schools being hurt by her leadership, speak up. If we see special needs kids being pushed aside, speak up. Get involved in your local school, support that overwhelmed parent, love your kids' teachers (their jobs are ridiculously hard), reach out to the kids in the margins, speak loudly and clearly to our legislators that education is a priority for their constituents, let them know that if they do not listen to us and represent us, we will work to see that they are not reelected. In the mean time, find ways to help your local school that doesn't require our legislators finally listening to us. We don't have to wait for the government to save us - we can start without them. These things will do more to bring change than blocking the door to a school and screaming your anger. Do something.
The same for our new president. Most of you know how I feel about him as a person, as a leader. But, as sad as I am about it, he IS our president and should not be blocked at every turn from doing his job. I'm not against the peaceful protests. NOT. I understand them and often agree with much of what they are saying. But the hate, the mocking, the disrespect, distorting the truth, even as we accuse him of lies, ultimately hurts us all. Let him try to do his job. Watch him closely. Do not stop paying attention - I, personally, do not think he can be trusted to be left unchecked. I think he has surrounded himself with mostly yes-men and we need to pay attention. Call him out when it's necessary. If he breaks the law, let's be paying attention. If he stays within the law and simply operates in a political ideology we do not agree with, we will survive and we can exercise our right to vote for someone more in line with our thinking in four years. Our country is strong enough to survive a bad president - we've done it many times before. We are not strong enough to survive the growing hatred in this country. If all we do is hate - if we just continue to become angrier and more abusive in our speech, then we are no different than what we accuse him of. We will destroy our country. Giving back what you feel like you've received only drags everyone down into hell together.
If our posts and conversations mock his looks, his marriage, his kids, his hands, for goodness sake.... what is gained there? It increases the polarization and the hate. When you spend more time reading of what he's done wrong than you do personally living out righteousness, who wins? And I get it -- I've spent more time reading news articles in the last four months than in several years combined - much of the time, trying to discern truth from lies (and it's near impossible)... and here's what I've learned. All that reading did not change him. He's still the president. I still don't like him. My eyes are a little more opened, but I could have read a 1/4 of what I've read and still accomplished that. So... here's what I've decided, at least for now -- I'm going to read a lot less and DO more. I will still read, because I DON'T trust him. I will watch my legislators because I don't believe they always want to represent us as much as they want to play the party game. They will hear my voice, they will know how I plan to vote. I will protest if it feels like the right way to speak into the moment. I will do my best to speak respectfully - not because the one I speak of and to has done anything to earn my respect, but because I am a follower of Christ. As such, I am called to speak to, and of, others as someone made in the image and likeness of God... no matter what. But mostly, I will try to DO.
If I feel he has promoted injustice, I will be about the work of acting justly. We can't, as individuals, change his executive orders, but we can let our system of checks and balances take care of that - and in the mean time, we can love the Muslim in our neighborhood, we can invite the immigrant in our church into our home, we can be the business that won't turn someone away because of how they look or worship or marry or vote. THAT will make a difference. If you feel he has stirred up hate, then counter with love. If you feel he has degraded women, then you lift them up - you teach your sons to be a different kind of man, your daughters to know they are valuable and strong. If you feel he has stirred up bigotry then, cross lines and practice inclusion. If you believe he will strip rights away from those in the minority, then get involved locally - see that YOUR home and YOUR neighborhood and YOUR community won't play that game.
I need to get back to practicing Hope. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Gentleness. Faithfulness. Self-control. Love.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
To act justly and to love mercy