In the Wake of the Election

Dearly Beloved,

Like many of you, I am still reeling from last's week election results.  Still welling up with tears at tender moments, often unfortunately in public.  Still having fiery outbursts of rage and indignation.  Still waking in the middle of the night and each morning with a feeling of dread and anxiety.  Still asking, How could this happen? with lots of mostly unsatisfactory answers.

In years past, I have been disappointed when elections did not go the way I hoped. But nothing like this.  Nothing so visceral or so overwhelming.  No, this feels more like the grief I felt after my house burned down.  A place I had called home, that had been a refuge, a safe haven, a sanctuary, was violently taken away, and suddenly I felt so unsafe, vulnerable, and afraid.

Then and now, I believe God is so close.  In fact, it is precisely when my heart splits wide open, when I feel my vulnerable flesh-and-blood so acutely, that God seems most near.  God's is not the shaming voice that says, Get over it.  Stop your crying.  Be strong.  God's is the tender voice that says, I know. I know. This is so painful. I am right here with you, right in the thick of your pain. Holding you and bearing the pain in you and with you.

I wish we could all be so tender and gentle and present with one another, even when we do not share or understand another's pain. The failure of empathy, of even trying to understand where others are coming from, feels like what my pastor called an "unholy fruit" of this bitter election season.  If you are one who is grieving, and have been further wounded by others' lack of compassion toward you, I am so sorry.  I honestly don't know what's worse sometimes - the pain itself, or feeling so invisible in it, like people don't see you, or see you and don't care.  I hope you are finding places and people that are safe, who can see you and hold your pain without trying to diminish or explain it, without trying to cheer you up or fix you.  God made us of tender flesh, and our capacity to feel our own pain and to suffer with others is what ultimately has the power to heal us, individually and in our relationships.  

I know many people are already moving on to the What now?, What's next? questions.  I too have wondered what is mine and ours to do in the days ahead as we live into this new reality.  Those questions need to be asked and answered with lots of prayer and soul-searching.  But I hear some wise voice in me cautioning me and perhaps others from moving forward too quickly.  I wonder if we might resist the urge to try to think ourselves out of our pain.  I wonder if we're being invited to tend our hearts a bit more, linger with our grief, make sure we find healthy and healing expression of all we are feeling, whether that be in our conversation with trusted others or in prayer and ritual or some other form of self-expression.  I know from my experience with other griefs, there is no way around it, only through.  And I'm reminded that each person's process and timetable will be as different as we are.

I am well aware that not everyone reading this is grieving or broken-hearted over the election.  If this is you, I hope then it means you have extra emotional resources to offer others.  If you're not feeling heavy burdened, you can help carry another's load. If you're not wounded, you can tend those who are.  But please be gentle and kind.  If you don't understand or know what to say, I'm so sorry you're hurting might go a long way.  Or a loving silence might be the very best thing you can offer.  We are in this together.  And I don't see a healing way forward toward unity without addressing all the pain heaped up in and between and among us.

I hope and pray in the days to come, we can all open our eyes to really see the pain and fear and suffering around us and in us. After all, we in the Christian tradition believe in a God who does not stand far off, but enters intimately into the flesh-and-blood experience of being human.  May we join God, enter in, bear in Christ and with Christ and for Christ, the suffering of our present times, our fellow human beings and the creation itself, for the redemption of this whole world God so loves.