Two beautifully challenging pieces to share today—the first one is new, the other is a few years old…
I’m hurting, friend. I’m hurting deeply. And I’m being told to suck it up and put away my pain and move on. Rather than call those responses insensitive, I want to help you understand my lament, if I can.
My heart is so tender, and I’m praying with each word that they will be received in the matter in which I intend. I know a lot of voices are shouting right now. I hope to be a voice that pulls up a chair to chat over coffee and share my heart.
I occupy a unique space. I’m white, but four of my children aren’t.
I was born here into a family that dates back to the pilgrim days, but four of my children are immigrants from Asia and Africa. I have ancestors who fought under the Confederate flag, but I’ve been targeted online as a “race traitor” for adopting outside of our ethnicity. I easily pass as having no disabilities (though I live with chronic conditions that are invisible yet can be disabiling), but I’m raising children who live with autism and cerebral palsy and HIV and visual impairments, including one who uses a wheelchair. My husband and I are straight and fit into accepted gender norms, but we have dear friends and neighbors who aren’t or don’t. I’m a Christian, but last year a Muslim friend of mine and her son waited at the preschool until we arrived to walk in with me and Zoe because she was afraid to walk in by herself after the Paris terrorism attacks.
And I occupy one common space: I am a woman who, like 1 in 6, has been raped. I am a woman who was sexually harassed in my workspace and whispered about when I filed a grievance against the man in power who objectified me. I am a woman raised by a father who doesn’t “read books by women because they aren’t any good.” (And I’m a writer, so the hurt is doubled there.)
I am grieving. Many are reading this as being a sore loser. But that’s not how I’m feeling. I have voted in five presidential elections, and my candidate only won one of them. It’s not new for me to watch election results and see that it didn’t go the way I voted.
But I’ve never felt this way before. And I want you to understand my lament. I want to try to help you grasp the depth of and heart behind this pain.
Before that, let me be clear about what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that I feel this way because the candidate I voted for wasn’t elected; that’s not the basis of my feelings. I’m not saying that I don’t trust God; I do. I’m not saying that I reject anyone who disagrees; I find beauty in our diversity of all forms.
What I am saying is please don’t dismiss my pain or put a timeline on anyone’s grief. Hold space. In the words of James 1, please be slow to speak and quick to listen and slow to become angry.
(And if you’re wondering, I’ve confessed to God and others when I’ve fallen short there too. I’m not pointing to a speck in your eye while I have a log in my own. I promise. And I wrote these words today instead of yesterday because I couldn’t ask others to repent without words dripping with my own sinful arrogance.)
I’m not going to list every way Trump acted or spoke in hurtful ways about groups to which my family belongs. This post isn’t about him. He is our next president. I am praying for him. I’m even rooting for him. I genuinely hope none of the grave concerns I have about his leadership, character, and policies will be accurate. I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong.
But I believe Maya Angelou is right when she said, “when people show you who they are, believe them.” This post isn’t about who Trump is. We’ve known that for a while. This post is what the votes of white evangelicals have shown me about who they are.
I don’t believe most people who voted for him did so because of his expressions and actions of racism or ableism or xenophobia or misogyny or sexual assault or religious discrimination. I’m not saying that’s who you are if you filled the bubble by his name. I want to think the best of my neighbors, so I’m telling myself you were driven by other reasons.
But? Whatever your reasons, a vote for Trump required a rationalization… (continue reading HERE)
To the ravaged bride (somewhere in America),
I could pretend that I don’t love you anymore. I could yell and scream and break things. I could walk out dramatically like you and I are on a movie set, and say something pious as I slam the door. I could manufacture looks of disgust, or better yet I could turn my eyes away. But you know me too well, don’t you? You know that I even when I’m petty or enraged, even when I lash out at you with self-righteousness indignation (is there any other kind?)—you always have my heart. Even when you are in tatters, your gown ripped and your make-up smeared, a clownish parody of what you once were—you are still beautiful.
So I write you less as a scorned lover, and more as a heartsick old fool, wearing my displaced affections like medals. And I want to talk to you with the detached wisdom of a professor or the elegant rhythm of a poet, but I always end up stammering when I’m close to you. Why bother to go through the machinations of fury and distance when you see through me every time? You see me wearing my rage and my confidence like a silly fake mustache, a failed disguise for my broken heart.
So I’m writing you today, honestly trying to avoid bravado and forced swagger, knowing that we are in this together — I am in you and you are in me. I want to write you off, I want to cut you down to size. I want to tell you that you cannot be the bride Christ came to save, to tell you that you missed Him already and that He’s moved on to a more authentic love.
But I know that you are still the bride, and I know He hasn’t moved on from you. So I’m stuck here, chained to the radiator, loving you under part compulsion and part real tenderness.
You’re still seductively pretty. But for the life of me I can’t figure out what’s happened to you, to your charm and courage and grace under pressure. There’s a mad and hopelessly wonderful jungle around your house, full of danger and opportunity. Why are you trying to burn it down? You used to know that when the people around you were at their angriest and everybody was looking for someone to stone—you would just go walking through them with no weapon but your own fragrant perfume. You didn’t just charm, you disarmed—you could walk through a room and make it go silent save for the clang of swords dropping to the ground. You brought tenderness into the war zone and wine to the party.
What happened to you to make you start acting like them—screaming and demanding and posturing?
You still look the same from a distance, but up close I know something is badly wrong.. Something is different this time around. I’m not sure I know who you are. Whenever I’m at denominational meetings, and we are trying to find somebody to blame for our sinking ship…I don’t just see the individuals. I see you in all of your collective horror. I’ve seen your outrage at political rallies, festivities that talk about “values“ without words like “kingdom” or “cross.” I heard your protests when “they” started infringing on our territory (Muslims and Mexicans and lions and tigers and bears, oh my), and you felt like you needed to stand up to them instead of laying down your life for them. I noticed when your rhetoric went from “good news” to yet another kind of paranoid propaganda.
Let’s not be coy here, honey. We’ve lived together for too long, and we know each others secrets and habits and fears. We share ideas and we share clothes, we drink from the same cup.
But didn’t you think anybody would notice that your knuckles started getting bloodier than your palms? That the blood on your hands was theirs and not yours?
It’s not that I don’t think you’ve still got answers to give. It’s not that the world outside needs you any less. But right now the chemo seems more toxic than the cancer, baby. We came here to this place to lay down our lives, but the corpses in the back yard are more from our swords than from our crosses.
Do you think me naïve? You think I don’t know there is an enemy to fight? On the contrary, my love, I’ve seen the monsters under the bed. I know that there is a force of evil in the world that is greater than the sum of its parts. I know we’ve got dragons to slay. It’s just that they don’t scare me.
In the words of Bob Dylan, “Let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.” So I’ll risk more honesty than can be afforded on an average Sunday: I know the world is a volatile, dangerous place. There is a part of me, cold and scientific, that expects the world to blow itself up. It’s not prophecy; it’s pure arithmetic. We are endlessly creative in finding new ways to conquer and destroy. The more people learn to manipulate chemicals and machines, the worse our chances get.
But if I’m honest, that doesn’t really scare me either. If more war breaks out tomorrow and the rockets red glare becomes nuclear and dirty bombs are bursting in air, and half the creation is maimed—I still believe that the creative power of divine love would rise from the ashes. God already died. Terrorism is not nearly so frightening as blood and water gushing from the side of the Creator, and even that terror of terrors was swept up in resurrection life. I am not afraid of the horrible things human beings might do to me or do to one another.
But I am afraid of you—still a mighty power in the universe, still the world’s great hope. You are still the Church. Nobody has the power to create or destroy quite like you. Sometimes we have seen the world around us exploding, and when we do, we groan with the creation for the restoration that is to come. But what if you go up in flames? What if the salt loses its saltiness? What if you, a once chaste and patient virgin, take the oil from your own lamp, and throw it on someone else’s face—and strike the match? The apostle said that the weapons of your warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God. But you’ve been firing them in the dense fog, you don’t who or what you are aiming at.
You’ve been flailing punches instead of turning the other cheek.
God help us, you’ve been beating your plowshares into swords.
You know I’m no cynic—I’ve loved you too long for that. This is love animated by grief. I still believe in you despite all of your vices. You can still dazzle me. You can still dazzle the world, bride of God. But things are feeling as insane in here as they are out there, honey. And I don’t know what else to do except to remind you of the time you were lovely.