Someone from outside our church community asked me this week, “With all that is going wrong these days, how does your faith help you?” There’s a question…
This is an incredibly awful time and place in which we find our nation. We seem held captive by the willful and ill-considered smallness and meanness of the President; the narrow-minded, even hateful people he empowers around him; and a Congress too weak, compromised, uncaring or uncourageous to confront him.
A colleague confided in me:
“I really don’t know what to do anymore? The vile, disgusting family separations and deportations of these last days. All of the White House’s reasons, as enervating as they are changing and insufficient. Then that jacket.
But those are just the most recent crises — in a never-ending torrent of assaults that inundate and threaten to drown us all. I am in outrage overdrive, and don’t know if I can keep up, or for how much longer? I cannot imagine how communities both more targeted and more vulnerable than mine are standing this?
I want to seek ways to act faithfully. To be there for my people, and to give them strength. That we can act with others, with the communities we love and need. But sometimes I wonder if I can keep myself together through all this?”
It is a real problem.
Madelyn G. said to me once between the election and the inauguration, “You are keeping me — and a whole lot of others — sane through all this.” I was flattered… and sure that I could not be so helpful! I was barely keeping my head above water. But her comment did help me realize something, namely what a particularly important role the church and faith can play in difficult times.
Because the larger world’s uncertainties and brokenness heighten and exacerbate any difficulties people are struggling with in their personal lives. The financial difficulties, the medical issues, the family problems; the doubts, fears and hurts — whatever trouble someone is facing in life is that much more difficult when the world as a whole offers a backdrop of more troubles rather than support.
I wrote back to my colleague, in part: “I believe resistance begins inside ourselves — not letting the harm done or those responsible for it to take away your hope. You need to do whatever is necessary — and that will be different for each of us — to keep recognizing and trying to live a better way.”
My faith helps me: it cuts down to size even the most overwhelming situations and overbearing personalities. God is bigger than me and my enemies, bigger than our times, and bigger even the worst man-made evil and consequent catastrophes. That doesn’t absolve me of action over against wrongdoing and harm. But it does assure me that God’s time will outlast me and all of us, and God stands on the side of right.
In this case, God cares about every last migrant child and their families. And God cares ultimately for everyone else who is directly and indirectly a victim of all the harm that is occurring. Church, I trust God to be able to do what I cannot figure out how to do…
And even when I cannot understand what is happening politically, or why leaders would act this way, or what we can do to fix things… in the midst of so much confusion and unclarity, I do know what is asked of me. To forgive. To love. To do justice. To weather on, even when the end is not clear, not returning evil for evil, but loving and praying for my enemies.
Maintain your hope, church.
I read this week our own Tim H. explaining that as an artist, he will do what he can, namely art, as his contribution, in hopes that his effort will enable others to feel empowered and to contribute what they can. It’s going to take more than a village… And more than any one of us, maybe even all of us together, have to offer.
I like Tim’s insight, and think he is right. Resistance takes many forms. And all different gifts and work and roles are needed. Do what you can.
And sometimes, you cannot. You don’t have anything to give. Or you are burned out. That’s ok too. These days are really difficult. And there are many things asked of you. Even God needed a rest. If you need to drop out, find silence, stop paying attention, focus on something else, it’s ok. There are enough people to let those who need to find the quiet and the peace they need do so. In fact, that’s how they might have to protect or retain their hope.
Remember the instructions at the beginning of a flight, “If needed, please put on your own air mask before you help others.” You will be no good if you are not together enough; instead of being able to be there with and for others, others will need to try and bring you along. It’s ok to say, “I need a rest.”
Do what you can. disciples.
Finally, you have heard it said that you need to treat others as you want to be treated. Amen. A corollary is treat yourself as you would like to be treated. Someone recently told me about how much easier life had become when a situation at home changed and the tension there fell dramatically. We can’t — at least right now — do much to ratchet down the tension we all are living with. Remember that, and treat yourself accordingly.
Take care of yourself, for you are those who God loves that much.
We will survive this…
See you in church,