It’s been a minute — over three months, actually, since I’ve come to this space to pour my heart out, to try and make some sense in my tangled spirit of what’s happening in the world. Written words seem futile in the midst of sound bytes and TikTok reels, truth actively constructed by pundits and tribalism to the point that anything passing for civil discourse is, most days, lost in the wasteland of cable news and social media.
And, my thoughts on the things ripping us apart these days — gun violence, abortion, inflation, immigration, even Covid-19–don’t fit into a nice box with a pretty bow, and so I generally dwell in murky grays, because I find life to be inexplicably complicated and horribly messy. And I think mostly the complexity and messiness terrify us, and so we cling to black and white.
I majored in journalism in college, minored in English. Written words, stories, are what I know, how I make meaning. Insta’s content creators care nothing for such words. And yes, I use both Facebook and Instagram, but I suspect to my detriment and heightened anxiety, especially as of late.
I dearly love people across the theological and political spectrum in our country — people on both sides of that damn aisle who love me, support me, enrich my life and who are daily conversation partners, people who have shown up for me with some kind of light in my darkest days. I sometimes vehemently disagree with these folks on either side. I sometimes am disappointed in these folks on either side. I sometimes wonder if they are disappointed in me. Most often, I lay awake at night insisting with the most stubborn and maybe even blind sort of hope that we will, somehow, find a way forward in this country I love, in this community I love, in these relationships that give me life. It is, most days, exhausting.
My daughter recently spent eight days in Costa Rica on a mission trip with our church. They had fun in that beautiful country, to be sure, but most of their time was spent working in acutely impoverished communities — building a wall where one was badly needed, installing a ceiling in a house without one, taking food boxes to families who depend on such deliveries. If you ask her how the trip was, she will say, “It was life-changing.”
Monday morning, on her fourth day back in the United States, as I drove her to her summer internship, she burst into tears. We’d been talking about all the things tearing this country apart, the news having exploded while she was away, and she said, “Mom. It was so peaceful in Costa. Nobody was angry with anyone else. Everyone smiled.” Through her tears, she went on to marvel at the joy of the people she served, and how mixed up she has come to believe our priorities are here.
We value the wrong things in these United States. And in doing so, we forget what’s best about us, what’s good and true about this beautiful nation and her people. We focus on wealth and power, first and foremost, serving our worst demons, instead of our better angels. And as a result, we’ve created systems of control and riches that care nothing for actual human beings.
Systems overwhelm us. They seem too much and it’s hard to really take a look at one and see how it developed, how it grew, how it corrupted, even, and how it might be fixed; or, if necessary, destroyed, to make space for something new. And because we don’t know what to do with these systems, we attack each other. We assume that any one person who identifies as pro-choice must not mind murdering babies, and we assume any one person who identifies as pro-life must not care about women’s rights. Neither of these media and politically propagated extremes are true. They just aren’t. But again, we do not to explore the gray, the complexity. We find comfort in absolutes, even if those absolutes are making us less than who God created us to be.
I could go down the list…because over and over again we scream, “If you are not this, you are that.”
I have spent more hours than I could even begin to count the last several months searching for the right words, the right story, to help bring about healing, understanding, real relationship — the kind that could redeem us all. Perhaps it’s misguided, arrogant, even, to think such right words or right story are even possible. Still–our narratives are all wrong and the only way to correct destructive narratives is to reshape them into narratives that build up, that offer hope.
What I long for is a world where we focus on the person. And if we do not agree with that person, we ask, “Why? Tell me about your life,” instead of turning away; a world where we value a person’s life story over a person’s current opinion; a world where we leave room for “I might be wrong,” or “I’d like to try to understand;” a world where we don’t try to make decisions about how another person ought to live his or her life, because we have not walked in his or her shoes.
Most of all, what I long for is the very blessed day when we catch a glimpse, even if only for a moment, of how God sees each of us: wholly and completely beloved.
Each of us.
That person you hate.
Each of us.
No matter what.
What would happen if we made naming that belovedness – in ourselves, and in one another — our aim?
How would it change tomorrow?
What would you do differently?
Who would you, just maybe, see in another light?