Post Election Thoughts – The Courage to Keep My Ears Open
My heart is heavy when thinking about the events of this past week, and at the same time inspired by my colleagues and friends. As I often tell our students, the true test of our character comes when the real pressure is on and we are face to face with a moment where we feel that unbearable burden or are face to face with someone with whom we disagree at the most fundamental levels. The test for me is in my response to that pressure when something matters. I can choose to react out of selfishness, or I can attempt to do the impossible – to be true to my heart, and listen to the heart of another. My own capacity to show up as my best self has never been more challenged as the last few days.
So, I’m attempting to start with this humble prayer before God.
“Lord, keep my ears open, given me convictions that are smarter and wiser than my own capacity to create them, and give me the courage to face my own limitations and use whatever resources you have provided to be a force of positive influence to the people I have been called to serve.”
Sometimes when I talk about my own world view, it may feel like I’m trying to convince you of something, but I’m not. I’m simply trying to express what I believe about our character. My belief, given the evidence I see in myself and the challenges of those around me, is that the world is a deeply broken place. It was broken yesterday, and it is broken today. At the same time, we have tremendous redemptive capacity to be reflections of love into the hearts of others…even those with whom we disagree. After all, it is so much easier to judge the character of another and avoid the reality that looking ourselves in that same mirror would be so painful. It reminds me of the image of human beings as cracked pots – vessels capable of carrying so much good into the world, and at the same time, truly broken and full of the capacity to do harm.
We are surrounded by hurting and broken people. If you are one of them, you are not alone. As I told our community, even if you don’t feel like you belong in our country right now, you belong here. You belong here. May we have the discernment and connection to see you as you come before us – regardless of how you see yourself or to whom you belong. Those in need are right beside us and surrounding us in the circles where we serve. If you are one of those, my hope is that someone will see you.
Two nights ago in class with our first year students, we had a wonderful conversation in the midst of the craziness, fear, and uncertainty where some expressed concern and other expressed questions. Some expressed fear of the conversations they were likely going to have with loved ones who disagreed with them. Others were simply in a bit of shock at the outcome of the election. We made a pact to make sure that we were mindful of attempting to help each other leave the conversation better than where we started. I was so proud of the students. One student made the wonderful point that we needed to be aware that we should not assume that all in any group might necessarily agree with us. I have to admit that I hadn’t thought of that. That reminded me that there are likely those all around us who fall on each side of this election. Someone else suggested that we focus on things that we can control. People were appropriately transparent and it was such a wonderful time. It didn’t fix all the problems of our hearts, but we left with a mission to care for one another and to lead out as best we can into the brokenness around us.
The other thing I mentioned to them is just how very proud I am to be a part of our community. If there is any group of people who have the shared capacity to listen to those with whom we disagree, to care for those in the greatest need, to discern, and to lead this conversation into a more redemptive possibility, it is the people here in our program. If I had to pick 10 people at random to lead during a massive crisis, I would want to pick from our program. Something else also came to me last night. I truly believe that members of our community, because of our expertise in the selection of leaders and understanding of character and competence, will be a first or second level connection to the choice of our president within the next decade. Crazy, but I can see it happening as clear as I can see the keys on my computer right now.
My hope is that you are surrounded by a community like that, or that one will find you in the hours, days, and weeks ahead. My other hope is that we continue to see one another – especially those with whom we may disagree the most.