I’m in a bit of a hard space right now.
It’s not my family or health or finances. We are all moving toward making plans for better days and holding on to the hope of hugging and meeting for coffee without barriers and without hesitation.
My hard, almost dark place is quite small, right here in my writing studio.
It’s hard because I feel like I want to let it all hang out and speak up – only to find that I’ll just be bleeding over all of you who already know me and feel the same pain and anxiety I do about the world. It’s dark because we know that we are all in the same storm together, but we are definitely not in the same ocean liner, tug, canoe, or life raft.
You see, I’m just like thirty-hundred-eleventeen other bloggers who write things from small to significant, compose poetry that only a few appreciate, and fill us in on laundry hacks, the best places to stay in Amsterdam, and recipes that either heal or delight (seldom both). Bloggers who write because they love it and can’t stop creating or editing until they click Publish.
Unfortunately, I’d bet most of us have a similar “platform” or sphere of influence. Our families and good friends – maybe even friends of friends – encourage us to keep going because they believe in us and believe we have something to say. But in reality, our book deal is but (1) a pipedream or (2) a goal so overwhelming that we can’t be sure we’d ever have the strength to see it through. I’m a little of both – mostly #2.
The majority of us don’t catch the attention of the rich and famous. We also don’t attract the trolls who can’t wait to highjack the Comments, condemn us for what we say, and/or simply call us stupid. I’m not well enough known even to be criticized.
I get it. I don’t buy music or artwork I don’t like. I won’t invest time in a book that is either too gory, sad, or erotic. So I don’t expect anyone who does not agree with me to promote LivingCenter. That’s asking too much. And plenty of smart, witty, and worthy people publish intriguing ideas every day.
But I would like to be a part of the conversation, complete with respectful, meaningful, and helpful comments, even those completely opposed to mine.
To cut off a relationship – especially during this forced and lengthy isolation – because you or I didn’t vote red or blue is heartbreaking and unhealthy.
Even when I tune out the online deluge of articles, memes, and videos my more outspoken friends share from ANY perspective during chaotic times, I check back in with them regularly to keep up with their families, home improvement projects, and recipe suggestions.
So why now? Why today is this place so hard? By now, the political division, health crisis, and world events have been turning us upside down and inside out for years.
Oh, I don’t know exactly. And it’s probably not really today. This cloud or haze or deep purple funk didn’t appear overnight. It’s been growing and, up until now, I guess I just thought I was one of those thirty-hundred-eleventeen who had nothing new to say, even though the voices in my head write and edit non-stop as I shower, clean the kitchen, fold laundry, or walk to the mailbox.
As I watch our communities become increasingly polarized, I recall an opinion piece I read almost three years ago, written by the controversial-but-not-necessarily wrong Joseph Epstein:
When politics isn’t a quest for personal gain or power, it’s a clash of virtues. Look behind a person’s political views and you will discover his idealized picture of himself. The liberal sees his virtue in speaking up for the underdog, hungering for social justice, showing a spirit of empathy. The conservative finds his virtue in advocating liberty and maximal freedom as most likely to induce achievement, prosperity, and, most important, strong character. In reality, many liberals may be pig-selfish, and many conservatives may have the character of a hyena, but let that pass.
The main point is that in declaring my politics I am declaring my virtue, so when you oppose my politics you oppose my highest view of myself. This explains why political arguments so quickly get to the shouting stage. If you disagree with me about a candidate or policy, you are in effect telling me that I am (pick one) selfish, naïve, insensitive, foolish. Disagree with my politics, and you offend, insult, attack me personally.There’s Too Much Virtue in Politics
I cannot remember what triggered the breaking point or my entry into the dark and hard. For the good of the order, I probably shouldn’t tell you even if I knew.
But this I know to be true. Whether you voted for him and him or him and her, whether you are an anti-masker or pro-vaccine, whether you believe the history you were taught or see the past much differently than our high school social studies class – none, absolutely not one of those things gives any of us license to shame, name-call, or question the faith of another.
You may be like the homer in the gloamin’* right now, hitting them out of the darkening park with calm and patience. But, my lovelies, here I am, ping-ponging between…
Don’t call me dumb.
How dare you challenge my love for Jesus.
I have been ignored, scolded, and smirked at by people who I thought I knew. And I thought they knew me. I have felt the eye rolls and heard the snark even in the written words of people who, quite frankly, know better.
Do I have my own view of people who have surprised me in the past 2 or 3 years? You bet I do.
But it is far, Far, FAR!!! above my pay grade to assume I can accurately assess your relationship with Jesus based on what I observe. Yes, I wrestle with the How can she believe that and still be a Christian? and Does he really think that’s what Jesus would do? Sure I do. And I steadfastly believe the Fruit of the Spirit should be evident in the life of a Believer.
But to limit the enormity of spiritual faith to association with a political party is just wrong and all too common.
So, truth be told, yeah. I’m tired of being called dumb. I’m heartbroken by the number of people who have excused themselves from my life because we don’t agree about Donald Trump.
My lovelies, I don’t mind one bit if people push back and get a little testy when difficult issues come up. We are all feeling the effects of a pandemic, for the love of mud – even the skeptics.
I wish, however, that instead of contributing to the darkness of our small places and making simple connections hard and prickly, we would choose grace. I wish we would embrace the light and lovely. I wish we would look for the best in everyone instead of accepting only the narrowest checklist of approved personalities and choices.
It’s at this point I realize I’m a broken record, calling once again for peace and love when chaos and division seem too powerful to overcome. I cannot give up, though, because:
- God gave [me] a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)
- He is able to do far more abundantly than all that [I] ask or think, according to the power at work within [me]. (Ephesians 3:20)
I cannot give up and neither should you. We, all of us who love Jesus and love our neighbors, are included in this plan. The one where everybody is somebody and He loves all of us the same.
Even when we are in the hardest and darkest places, He loves us.
Until we write and read again, I pray for you …
*A nod to my fellow Cub’s fans. Here’s the story.