Every year, I choose one word to represent my hopes, dreams and goals for the upcoming year. I love the one word philosophy. Choose one word that will drive and influence the year. Forget the resolutions that don’t happen anyway and leave us guilt-ridden and discouraged. One word.
In the past, my one word has proven powerful and transformative. It has also proven prophetic!! I’ve learned to choose my word with great care because it WILL impact my life for the entire year.
This year, my one word is SIMPLIFY. My life has gotten complicated and busy. It threatens to overwhelm me sometimes. I’ve begun dropping balls and being forgetful at times. I have too much to do and it makes me feel tired even when I’m not actually in need of sleep. My goal for this year is get a handle on it, to simplify and make my life more manageable and happier.
Now that I (and everyone else) has had a day to process, to talk, to grieve, I find myself thinking about what it means to be living as a citizen of the Kingdom of God while also a citizen of the United States of America.
As a citizen of the United States of America, I am committed to certain principles and ideals. I am committed to the election process and to the peaceful transfer of power. Even when I don’t like or want the candidate who is chosen, or perhaps especially then, I respect the process and the tradition of peaceful transfer of power. I am committed to the idea of the “will of the people”, even when I fundamentally disagree with that collective will. I am committed to free speech, to equitable opportunities within the confines of the system, and to the basic protections of the constitution.
As a citizen of the Kingdom of God, I am committed to certain principles and ideals also. In many cases, those ideals overlap with the ideals of the United States of America. Sometimes, they do not. I am committed to the principles of taking care of the poor, the outcast, the widow, the orphan. I am committed to being hospitable to strangers, to providing care for the sick, to binding up the broken hearted and setting the captive free. Right now, some of those ideals are in conflict with the rhetoric in the United States. We shall see what comes with reality. Our constitution and system of government have checks and balances in place to ensure that certain lines cannot be crossed.
In the meantime, I am reminded of Ezekiel 22:30 “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” A gap in a city’s wall was an opening that an enemy created in order to enter the city and destroy those within the walls. The only way to prevent the enemy from entering the city through the breach was for a warrior to put his life on the line and literally stand in the wall’s opening and fight back the enemy. That warrior had to be committed to standing ALONE, by himself, to protect his city. There are gaps in our current rhetoric. They may become gaps in our actions, our laws and certainly our values. My response needs to be to “stand in the gap” and protect those who need protection.
The polls were wrong. My friends and colleagues who said it could never happen were wrong. The guy I met on the plane last week who told me that America was changing and that the Trump campaign was the last gasp in the struggle to hold on to the old ways, well, he was wrong too, as it turns out. And sometime in the middle of the night last night, the votes were counted, the Electoral College votes were assigned, and the unthinkable, unexpected occurred.
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” -Proverbs 29:2
That about sums it up for me. I mourn. I mourn the loss of the great dream that has been the America of my lifetime. I mourn the loss of the progress on racism, misogyny and hate that I have worked to create. And I mourn the future for children who will inherit this legacy.
But understand me, this is not mourning because a Democrat lost and a Republican won. And this is NOT mourning because a woman lost and a man won. This is not political or ideological in those ways at all for me. This is about caring for the outcast, the orphan and the widow. And recognizing that over the last several months, the outcast, the orphan and the widow have all been attacked and demeaned. And now those who have uttered those hurtful words are now in power. I mourn because I fear what is to come.
So now, I have a challenge, as do my friends an colleagues:
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Neimoller lived it. And he recognized the failure of his contemporaries to live up to the challenge. I pray that we will do better.