If you happened to catch the first presidential debate, then I’m sure you had some thoughts and opinions about it. Even if you didn’t watch the debate, I’m still quite positive that you have some thoughts and opinions related to the presidential campaign, because the thoughts, opinions, and feelings surrounding it have been tossed about like lawn furniture in a category 5 hurricane. Some of us have felt more free to participate in the larger storm, I mean conversation, with the general public. Thank you, social media, for allowing us to put our first thoughts out there into the world with little to no contemplation. What. a. blessing. I feel like some of us would be well served to coat our fingers in peanut butter or maybe bubble wrap before typing, so that by the end of the typing process, our thoughts may have had time to reach a more refined and well-thought out response. Just a thought.
Others of us have simply opted out of the conversation at large. We may share a thought or two with a close confidant, but by no means will we actually participate in this circus. That nonsense is for crazy people! We find ourselves in corners, whispering secretly to people who we know share our political viewpoint. This is what I tend to do, which is how I know that those of us who to tend to opt out still have all the strong feelings, we just internalize them. The same hurricane still rages, but rather than being “out there”, it rages on the inside.
Like everyone else, I can get caught up in my strong reactions to the current political climate, but the whole “no good choices” rhetoric is no longer holding water for me in my journey to wrap my head about what is going on with this election. Please realize that I used to be front and center on this way of thinking, declaring that my write-in vote for president would be Buddy Stax, the Large and Yellow. I fancied a large presidential portrait of my 80 pound labrador in the Oval Office, perhaps answering a large red phone while looking very serious but highly eager. Through prayer and an ongoing refining process of some of my thoughts and attitudes, I have been deeply convicted about some of the double-standards that I hold. Since conviction, owning personal responsibility, and the process of growth tend to be somewhat painful, this was not a pleasant process for me.
After one morning of intense prayer about the level of distress I was feeling about this election and the general state of trauma that our country is in, a couple of my commonly repeated catch-phrases about the election and the candidates came to my mind. These thoughts were immediately followed with the question “Where in your life are you like these candidates?”. Well, let me tell you, that is not only a sobering thought, but it will make a body want to punch someone. Uh-uh, no way, no sir, I AM NOT LIKE “THOSE PEOPLE”. By saying this, of course, means that I am exactly like “those people” in some way or I would not feel so defensive.
As the weeks went by, every thought, comment, or attitude that came up inside of me about this election season was met with the question of “where in my life do I do the same thing, have the same attitude, or hold the same bias?” It has been quite the spiritually, mentally, and emotionally cleansing experience, and two major ideas have come out of the process. The first being, for those of us crying out for greater personal responsibility from our fellow citizens, shouldn’t we be leading that movement by our example of going through a personal refining process of our own personal biases, attitudes, and behaviors towards others? Shouldn’t we be leading the charge by taking our own personal moral inventories, identifying the areas that are lacking, and working on strengthening our own hearts and houses as living proof of personal responsibility rather than just shouting personal responsibility as an intangible theory that can really be very hard to find in actual practice in our culture?
The second thought I had was what if it is more important to God that I follow his guidance through the process of picking my candidate rather than who I actually vote for? Stick with me. I know some of you just got all prickly, but hang in there. It occurs to me that from the dawn of time as recorded all throughout the Bible, new and old testament, that God already knows who will be leading this country and all of the other countries of the world from today through the end of time. The outcome of this election is completely under His will. He has known who would win this contest from the day He created the earth, along with the plans He has to use this and all leaders to bring about His purposes. To put it simply: He’s got this. And if He’s got this, then doesn’t that make it my job to walk and talk with Him about the choices I make when it comes to voting for the leadership of my country and about getting my heart right with Him about the way I make those decisions?
I’ve been reading through the book of Isaiah, and the constant theme of Isaiah, as well as so many other books, is God’s people straying away from him, God’s people failing to heed the warnings of his messengers, God sending an enemy to rule his people for a period of time, and God’s redemption of his people when that time has passed. So it seems that since the dawn of time, God has used changes in leadership for the purposes of correction, deeper connection, and redemption. I think if we stay focused on the lower story of Hillary and Donald, we miss the higher story of God’s corrective and redemptive process for His people, individually and collectively.
For me, these two major thoughts and walking through this refining process with God have brought something into my heart that I believe precious few are feeling during this election season: peace. There is a peace in my soul that comes only from surrendering something to God. I no longer feel the need to defend and protect my opinion, to share my opinion with people who are reactive rather than responsive, or to hide my opinion from those who disagree in a reasonable and respectful way. I also understand that a person may go through the same refining process with the Lord that I went through, and the Lord may lead them to vote for the candidate that He led me not to vote for. It may seem like quite the paradox, and well, it is. But when the spirit of God is at work in individuals, real conversations happen even in the differences. Especially in the differences. Iron sharpens iron, and conversations about differences that are spirit-led create a forum for balance, for growth on both sides, and for opportunities to entertain ideas that you may not have thought of and experiences that you may have never experienced. And from that, real connection can grow. From real connection, unity becomes a reality.