By Deidra Riggs
The very first time I voted in an election, was during my Freshman year of college. Growing up, conversations about politics were standard. We did not shy away from these discussions. We talked about politics the same way we talked about what we were having for dinner. We watched the debates together. We watched the conventions together. When I started dating H, I discovered the same thing in his family. If I visited during an election season, the television was on, no matter what. If there was a political scandal in the news, we talked about it, we debated it, we examined it from every angle. Then, we voted.
We didn’t always vote for the same candidate, and our candidate didn’t always “win.” Even when we “lost,” however, the world kept spinning on its axis. After we’d celebrated or mourned the election results, we still had to be about the business of living, regardless of the results.
I’ve been thinking about this aspect of an election season a lot, lately. It does not matter who gets your vote. No matter what happens, we’ll each have to get about the business of living and, for many of us, that means figuring out how to live out our faith, in the wake of the election. With regard to the Presidential elections, here in the United States, the results are going to be what they’re going to be. Whether people vote, or not, and no matter what happens, there is a good chance someone will be in the White House and, regardless of who that is, God will still be God. So, I’ve been focusing my prayers very specifically these days and I thought I’d share three words that help me as I pray:
I’ve been asking God to turn my attention to after the election. How can I engage people once the dust settles? How can I build bridges after the last vote has been cast? How can I use my gifts and my influence to point toward hope and to advocate for unity, regardless of who sits in the White House? No matter what happens with the election, my calling will not change. That calling is to love God and to love people. All people. No matter what.
I have found that turning my gaze toward how I might live after the election also draws my thoughts closer to God. I don’t get weighed down by the spectacle of this earthly contest. Instead, by focusing on how I might live after, I find God infusing my imagination with the expectancy of the Holy Spirit. This does not mean I think things will turn out the way I hope they will. Instead, I know that, no matter what, the Spirit that lives in me is greater than the spirit of this world. With that in mind, I can get creative about how I will engage my faith, my intellect, my body, and my neighbor in the days that lie ahead.
Jesus might return tomorrow, but then again, He might not. Either scenario is equally possible. For people of faith, and especially for those of us who live in relative comfort, it is tempting to put our hope in the former scenario, and pray that God whisks us out of a difficult situation. We look at the candidates, we listen to their rhetoric, and we cast our eyes to sky and say, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” And, He might. But then again, He might not.
So, in the event Jesus decides to wait a bit longer for whatever reason, I’ve been asking God to teach me how to live in this world as salt and light, even in the very worst situation. From what I can tell, when I read scripture, God is highly likely to allow us to experience hardship and disappointment without rescuing us out of it. God, it turns out, is much more interested in our character than our comfort, but He also enters in to—and redeems—the hardship (the Red Sea, the wilderness, the fiery furnace, the lion’s den, the valley of the shadow of death), right along with us. In fact, God is there before we even arrive!
We’ve spent a lot of energy over the past few decades, making it very clear who and what we are against. I find this to be one of the most disheartening facts about the Church and her people. We have segregated ourselves and we have written diatribes about who can and who cannot do what with whom and where they cannot do it. “No, no, no!” we seem to shout at every juncture. We have locked our elbows and held our arms out in front of us, refusing those whose sin, we’ve decided, does not look like ours. Our faces look like the faces in those black and white photographs of people shouting down the protesters during the Civil Rights Movement, all in the name of Jesus. Lord, have mercy. But, we can change that, you know. In fact, while I don’t have any special knowledge about this, I would not be surprised if this isn’t one of the reasons Jesus might take His time getting back here, so that we can have more time to figure this out.
God is for people. All people. As His representative I want to be for what God is for. I’m not, though. Not always. There are people I don’t understand. People who make me afraid. People who get on my very last nerve. I’d much rather just go ahead and be against them. It’s easier that way. I’d rather not think about the fact that God loves them just as much as He loves me and He wants nothing more than for “those people” to know that about Him. But if, as God’s representative, I keep locking my elbows and telling them how much they get on my nerves, what good is that to anyone? So, I’ve been praying that God would make me a person who is for people. All people. Wow. What a prayer. I mean, try it. It messes you up on the inside, and then it starts to set you straight.
I’m sharing these things, simply because they are helping me. I don’t have it all worked out. Every now and then, I still find myself all tangled up in the latest spin and the latest news cycle. But, the more I focus on after, in, and for, the less of a hold those other things seem to have on me. My heart feels lighter, my hope feels surer, my soul feels calmer, my peace grows richer. I don’t share these things as if the dangers of this world are not very real and very present. They are. In fact, I am well aware that not even my life is promised to me. I understand the stakes are high. But, I cannot let my comfort, my safety, or even my life become an idol, distracting me from living whatever time I have left as an ambassador of God’s Kingdom, on earth, as it is in heaven.
The Kingdom of God runs on love. That is its fuel. You cannot convince me otherwise. It is not power. It is not safety. It is not being right. It is love. Fear and anger and hatred and division stop love in its tracks. I cannot allow those things to be part of my life. I cannot give them space in my head or in my heart. Perfect love, the bible tells me, casts out fear. I know I’m a long way off from perfect love. But, the little bit of what I know about love tells me the bible is right about this. Love and fear cannot live together. When we can tap into love, we will have done something spectacular.
Love alone—not power, not safety, not comfort, not being right—is what will sustain us in the days ahead, come what may.
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