POST-ELECTION BLUES

Gut-punched, gobsmacked, flabbergasted, speechless.    voting-booth1

I have struggled for days to process the American presidential election results, to somehow wrap my head around what has happened and process what I am feeling.   I have gone through the motions of daily life in a state of shock, my mind reeling.

It was beyond my belief to think this could happen!  A man who has repeatedly faced lawsuits for non-payment of bills, fraud, racial discrimination and allegations of statutory rape; who demonstrably has not cared about anyone but himself throughout his life; who lies repeatedly to create his own imaginary history, with a worldview unhampered by facts or reality; who has been caught on tape chuckling over sexual abuse — this is an acceptable candidate for the highest office in the land? Who would vote for such a man? How could he have won an election?

My great uncle was also a bigoted, loudmouth outsider who always said what he thought without regard to truth or others’ feelings, but no one ever suggested he was qualified to lead a nation!  Trump’s running for office seemed at first nothing more than a publicity stunt, a joke.  Except the further he got the less amusing it became.

My disbelief has settled like grains of grit in a water glass. As the realization of Trump’s win has sunk in, I feel discouraged and despondent. Does one’s character no longer matter at all?  Am I naïve to think we should choose leaders we can admire and hold up as the best and brightest representatives of our citizenry?  Is it naïve to think our president should embody the principles and values that our country supposedly holds dear?

Trump’s candidacy has legitimized prejudice against racial and ethnic groups, mockery of women, minorities and the disabled, and using one’s financial resources to get out of paying bills.  No, sorry, this man does not represent me.  I am repelled by him and absolutely stunned that he is now the president-elect!

I am also in mourning.

I have dear friends and relatives who support Trump.  This discovery was another shock.  These are perfectly wonderful people, several within my own faith community.  During the last few weeks of the campaign, I kept trying in conversations and on Facebook to make clear Trump’s record as a lying, cheating narcissist who has always been oblivious to or downright callous towards those over whom he had power.  During the Great Recession he shrugged off the suffering of the 98%, stating he had enjoyed the banking and housing market collapse because he’d made a lot of money from it.  Donald Trump’s life mantra as one of the privileged has clearly been, “Whatever is good for me is all that matters.”

I kept thinking these friends and family just needed to be informed.  Surely, I thought, they must not know of his business record of stiffing employees and subcontractors, and declaring bankruptcy six times due to poor business decisions.  They must be unaware of his reprehensible comments about women and minorities.  If only they were aware of how bigoted, sexist, racist and immoral he was, they would re-think their decision!

It was especially perplexing to me when it came to my Christian brothers and sisters.  Christ calls for love, acceptance and recognition of the worth of all people.  Hoarding wealth and taking advantage of others are not in alignment with the gospel’s call to love and serve, help and heal.  What happened to that Jesus, dear fellow Christian? I fear we have crucified Him again on the cross of our egos and willful blindness.  One of my first thoughts after the election results was, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

Sadly, some friends and relatives were not persuaded by knowledge of Trump’s actions or words.  This revelation caught me by surprise.  I love them but have I ever really known them?  I wondered.  Are they for Trump BECAUSE of his coded promises to elevate white power, and to stomp on the rights of women, gays, minorities and Muslims?  Is this the great America they want to return to?  The very thought stuns me.

To me, Trump is the epitome of everything Jesus stood against.  To supporters, he is a messiah.  I don’t know how we can meet in the middle on this.  I guess we can only agree to disagree — yet I find this realization painful.

I also grieve the loss of my adopted country.

I am in mourning for the loss of the USA as I knew it.  Growing up in Canada, I knew there was a difference between the philosophies of the two countries regarding social responsibility.  During those years at least, Canadians agreed the government had been instituted to care for its citizens, most notably in the provision of health care for all, but also in other social programs meant to help those who could not help themselves.  While at times both countries have taken actions with which I did not agree, I always had the sense that both were at least attempting to do the right thing for their populace.

Now I am dismayed and ashamed.  I feel my country of residence is disintegrating before my eyes. In a nation claiming to be founded on Christian values, we chose the most flagrantly un-Christ-like candidate in my lifetime.  In a country proclaiming religious freedom, we resent those of other faiths and are seemingly supportive of rounding them up.  We state, “All men are created equal,” while promoting racial profiling and aggressive stop-and-frisk policies, and legitimizing LGBTQ discrimination and sexual harassment.  When civil rights are being curtailed we can no longer claim to be the “land of the free.” Where did that country go?

Supporters of Trump, maybe you still don’t realize what just happened.

By your vote you have said you’re okay with racial, religious and sexual discrimination and even mistreatment — for that’s what Trump stands for.

You have said, Yes, let’s walk back our progress on global understanding and international agreements because we want a solid win — not this “hopey-changey” thing of peaceful compromise and ally-building.

You have said, Yes let’s disregard scientific evidence about environmental damage and global warming.  Let’s give tax cuts to the wealthy, even though these have NEVER improved the lot of the middle or lower classes.  You have bought the lies that your economic situation is the fault of migrant Mexicans and that your fear of terrorists is the fault of all Muslims in your city.  These are all Trump arguments.

Please understand, my angst has not been caused by the discomfort of being wrong or picking the losing side.  This wasn’t merely a contest that my team lost.  This was one small step for the Republican party, and one giant step backwards for America.   We all lost!

People are afraid.  Trump’s stated objectives and principles are terrifying if you’re black, if you’re Muslim, if you’re Mexican, if you’re a woman, if you’re LGBTQ.

Or if you love any of the above.

Many have fought so hard for a country of decency, for legal equality and respect for each other, and at least on the surface we have achieved some measure of each.  But sadly this election has revealed how far we yet have to go.

So please don’t tell me to just get over it, or that my hope is in God and so I should just accept that the next four years could bring irreparable harm to our country and my loved ones.

I trust I will eventually be able to take a deep breath again and move beyond these feelings of shock, betrayal, and horror, despite my shattered illusions and my concern for what lies ahead.  I pray my faith will allow me to arrive at a place of more constructive emotions, to regain a hopeful vision of the future and the strength to work towards it.

But give me time.

Right now I am dazed and disoriented with the numbness that comes from trauma.

Advertisements

Death or Life?

PlantYears ago I was the proud owner of a beautiful potted tropical plant given to me by friends.  It had been with me for many years and through several moves.  Then one day I dropped an armload of books on it!  Devastated, I gently stood the bent stems upright and hoped for the best.

However as the days went by the plant began to droop.  The large leaves began to yellow and curl.  I knew my plant was in trouble but just couldn’t bring myself to give up on it.  I could see it as it used to be, flourishing and strong, and couldn’t bear to think it would no longer look that way.

Finally it was apparent it wasn’t the same plant at all anymore.  It was dry and brownish and ugly.  Sadly, preparing to throw it away, I began to cut back the damaged leaves – and was stunned to discover underneath several new leaf sprouts I couldn’t see before!  Fresh new growth was filling the pot!  Several weeks later I once more had a thriving, luxuriant plant with glossy green leaves.

While I had been mourning the loss of my plant’s former beauty and doubting it could regain its past glory, I was totally unaware of what was happening below.  Those new leaves wouldn’t have been able to grow in the shade of the old ones.  What resulted was a healthier and even more vigorous plant.

I often think of the lessons in that experience.  I don’t want to be an “old leaf” restricting the growth or blossoming of others.  Sometimes it takes just stepping out of the way.

I also find this memory to be a source of hope.  While feeling despondent about our church’s financial situation, I was reminded that sometimes cutting back is part of the natural order.  It may not be planned or foreseen or desired.  It is almost always painful.

The same is true when our personal circumstances change drastically.  We feel the sharp stinging slash of the shears as our former self is hacked away or reshaped and we mourn the loss of what we had or who we thought we were.

Yet the divine life force that sustains us will not be denied!  As we are stripped down to our essential essence, the very core of our value and purpose, what we find may be even better.  New possibilities arise when we let go of what was.

Right now tender shoots rooted in the rich soil of the past are reaching upward toward the light, longing to unfurl.  Perhaps such growth is possible only through what landscapers call “hard pruning”.  The new buds may catch us by surprise, but with faith’s tender care and watering, lustrous stems and leaves will emerge — and we will be reborn, not as we once were, but hopefully as we more truly are meant to be.

Contracts and Covenants

Watching a young couple giggle through their wedding vows recently I couldn’t help thinking, “God, help them!  They have no idea what they are promising.”  Newlyweds

In our society, we’re familiar with contracts.  When we make a contract with someone, we are saying, ”I will fulfill my part as long as you fulfill yours.  When you don’t live up to your end of the deal, I no longer have to live up to mine.”  Contracts are broken all the time when one party or the other doesn’t live up to their promises.  ¹

What many prospective brides and grooms don’t realize is that marriage is not a contract, but a covenant.  The vows are not meant to be contractual:  you do this and I do that.  Rather, the  wedding ceremony is a sacred promise that one partner will show love to the other, regardless of the other’s financial status, health, mistakes or betrayal.  And this promise is meant to be for life.

That’s why although we share the joy of the ceremony, we who are older may listen to the vows with some unease.  We know that life will bring with it trials, tests and mistakes.  That’s the way life is.  The wedding couple’s love will need to be strong enough to encircle and absorb all of that.  It will need to be flexible and stretchy enough to allow for the annoyances, disagreements, and disappointments we all inflict upon each other. As the traditional wording goes, “Marriage is not something to be entered into lightly.”

The test of love is not how happy you are to have found each other or the joy you feel when you are together.  We don’t need a marriage covenant for those times.  The test of love comes when you have made me angry or I have hurt you.  The test comes in the moments when I don’t like you very much or when it seems to you that I’m not fulfilling my obligations.  It is when we feel least loving, that the marriage covenant is most necessary.

As the Clint Black song says, “Love isn’t someplace that we find . . . Love’s not just something that we’re in . . . Love isn’t someplace that we fall . . . It’s something that we do.”  ²

Covenants that invite God’s presence into the relationship are the strongest and most precious.  God has already promised to love each of us with an everlasting love that is unchanging no matter where we go or what we do.  Asking God to enter our marriage is inviting Him to help us love each other as God does — patiently, unfailingly, looking for ways to delight the beloved and help them on life’s journey.  God’s involvement in our relationships makes those relationships stronger.   As we align ourselves and our marriage with God’s faithfulness and Christ’s example of sacrificial love, we find clarity and strength for whatever circumstances may arise.

The “two shall become one” concept entails more than physical union.  It means giving up my self-centeredness and my demands that life go the way I had expected.  It’s not about me now, but about us,  working together to build a strong home and support each other throughout life’s seasons.  This is the purpose of the sacred wedding covenant.

My wish for you this day is that your marriage will be blessed as you invite God to be part of your relationship.

 

¹ (Adapted from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen, ©1997 Harper San Francisco. )    ²(Title:  Something That We Do, Album: Nothin’ But The Taillights)

 

Praying For Humility

Richprayerard Rohr’s online meditations one week concluded with the daily prayer thought, “Humble me.”  I whispered this sentence with some trepidation.

Can I honestly ask for this?  It seems more natural to pray, ”Bless me and mine,” or to request peace or healing.

As one who now has lived almost 65 years, I am all too aware of what I am asking when I pray for humility.  Throughout my life it has been abundantly clear that I am most humbled in the lowest times.  My experiences of pain, loss, betrayal, and failure are what have made me humblest.  In these dark nights of the soul I have been driven to my knees, aware of my own insufficiency, when all I could do was cry out for God’s help in utter dependence and helplessness.

Doesn’t petitioning for humility mean inviting more pain, more anguish, more harsh lessons?  A frisson of fear slithers down my spine.

Then my heart reminds me how these incidents always end.  God comforts, forgives, heals, reassures, encourages.  Always, always.  When desperation proves I have come to the end of myself, it is God’s power, God’s provision, God’s sufficiency that then works the miracle.  When I am all too aware of my inadequacy, divine light shines through and blesses me, usually beyond anything I could have imagined.  God whispers, “Let go and let me.”

If crisis is the opportunity to know God better and trust God more, of what am I afraid?  If growth and bloom lie ahead of me, I will accept gladly the sacrifice of my ego-based desires and simply say, “Thy will be done.  If I can learn more of You, become closer to You, and be a better servant to a hurting world, then I can raise my head and shout with courageous joy, ‘Bring it on!  Humble me!  With You, God, I can take it.’ “

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Phil.4:13

Retirement A-Go-Go

Hapy srs4And so I am retired!  It seems strange to even say it!  Isn’t that something that only . . . well . . . OLD people do?  Like people my parents’ age?  How did I get here?

At gatherings I look in crowds for those I might know in my age range, only to realize I’m looking at the 50-year-olds.  I have to remind myself that the faces I should be sifting through are either more rounded or more withered or both.  I’ve been skipping past the wrinkled and white-haired, dismissively thinking, “old man” or “old lady.”  When I look closer, instead of generic geriatrics I find the eyes and features of friends from long ago. cleverly hidden in their new disguises.  Then I wonder, “Will they know ME?”

It’s sexagenarian hide-and-seek!  We find each other with the joy of discovering treasure. We celebrate like pirates unearthing hidden gold.  We each recover a lost piece of our previous lives that we thought was only confined to memory.  However close we may or may not have been before, we are bound by the knowledge that for both of us the intervening thirty or forty years have undoubtedly brought joy and sorrow, triumphs and tragedies, tests and trials. We are linked to each other by that realization and jubilant in our new commonality: we have SURVIVED!!  I may not know who you have become, we may not have been terribly close in the first place, but by golly, we’re both still standing! Or sitting, or leaning on our walkers – but we’re still here!  We made it this far!  Let the party begin!

 

Blast Off!

Okay, I’m not really sure about this blogging thing, to be honest.  As I grow older I’m finding that I have a lot to say, but it’s not always something that others want to hear!  Or that maybe I should even express out loud!

However, I find myself constantly having conversations in my head that need to find release.  Maybe my journey and the lessons learned could be helpful to others.  Or at least be mildly entertaining.  Therefore, in the spirit of risk and exploration and at the urging of a few relatives, I’ll be attempting to share some thoughts and memories from time to time.  I leave to you, dear reader, (dare I anticipate readers, plural?), whether or not you tune in.

So here we go:  3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . Blast off!