It’s not him, it’s us.

Breathe…take another breath.

There are no words to describe the amount of heartache, nausea, and shattering pain that I feel in my heart. My “allegiance” is to God, but it is identity-shattering to absorb the full impact as we recognize just what this country is…and what the Christian church in the U.S. has become. I have never felt so ashamed to be an American, though I have carried and wrestled with the realities of it for decades. To realize that the same hatred and greed that drove colonization and slavery is still alive and breathing in the hearts of both men and women in this country. How can it be?! I scream out in terror as it has become so explicit. This isn’t about Trump. This is about what he illuminated in a majority of people in this country. What he brought back up to the surface and then fueled. This is about you. And about me. About us.

This is certainly NOT just about politics. I am so tired of hearing that this is somehow about two parties, about different “opinions” of political issues. This is so beyond that; in fact, somewhere outside of it because it fully encompasses human existence. I can talk to you about our politics all day long. I can and have had rich conversations, fruitful ones, about important issues. Life is messy and I can go there. I can talk about the complexity of political topics. But this is about what has been festering in the hearts of both men and women. This is about the hunger for power, dominance, and wealth that drove colonization and slavery. About ignorance and divisiveness. And it is so dehumanizing when people will not acknowledge that these biases are a significant part of the truth. The destructive beliefs and feelings–they still exist at the same level for many people in this country that we claim is somehow free and just? You’re proud of that?? To be a country that was built on the backs and with the lives of the people we killed then and reject and kill now? The very people that are judged, ignored, oppressed, abused, and excluded…the people that are deemed less than, in your heart of hearts, and you’re going to sit here and tell me this is simply about politics? Lies!!! Do not lie to me, to yourself, and to others who are legitimately vulnerable. That devalues the worth of every single human being.

Now, you may claim that you are not those things. Racism, sexism, prejudices–those are not the reasons that you voted the way you did. Many who voted for Trump say they are sick of the status quo, that they feel vulnerable or threatened, that their values would have been threatened with Hillary Clinton. But, I tell you, that is not good enough to vote for him. Look, I earned a Ph.D in empathy. I can understand that you are against abortion and big government, for example. I know that you care deeply about your loved ones and that you feel fear, too. I know that you hold values and traditions of your own and that you felt pretty stuck in this election. I, too, do not want women to abort their babies. I want healthy, loving families. Ones who have options that do not leave them haunted and ashamed. But, that is a limited view if it ends there. Do you know how many minority women do not have the same privileges, education, access to birth control, free will in relationships, etc. that you have?? You must know that men still refuse to use condoms, right? That women may not have power in relationships…you at least recognize that, please tell me? That sex education is sparse and superficial and completely absent in nearly all Christian circles. And do you know how much drug use, rape, and poverty overwhelms the lives of so many people because of the greed of others? Because not everyone has their own boots, damn it. Not everyone was born white (thank God, truly), or into a two-parent home, or into this country, or free. Do you know the sex trafficking industry breeds on 10-15-year-old girls? Do you know who pays for the porn industry?? White men and Christian men, too. The sexual abuse and manipulation of women crosses all demographics. So many people talk about abortion being a convenient choice for women who have what they need. And yes, those are some of the cases. But, not all of them, not even a majority of them. C’mon. You have to be ready to admit the complex truth of these situations. This is just the beginning of the complexity of the abortion issue, but do not be ignorant about a topic that is going to determine who you vote for on election day.

Please also do not pretend or claim that you did not have options. If you really detested Hillary or felt so against who she might appoint, or had deep conflict with her political policies, you had others to vote for. And that should have sparked the realization that Trump does not hold your values, either. He is a liar. He would encourage women to get an abortion and is in fact, pro-choice. Thus, that particular reason to reject Hillary is garbage. And I could talk about so many others with that same important questions. But, this is not about him. You had a choice. There were third-party candidates. And there was time and good reason to ask yourself why you were truly rejecting her if it means selling your soul (aka, morality, integrity) over policies. What your vote condones or allows others to do is just as important as whether your chosen candidate “believes” the same way you do about business, immigration, and abortion. And this is what you need to admit and wrestle with openly, as you dismiss the heartbreak and fear of vulnerable groups: Any vote for self-protection is selfish if it results in the abuse and neglect of others. 

What about lives? What about human beings? I thought you said you were pro-life?!

And to my Christian brothers and sisters, we have a higher calling. Are we really being salt and light right now? You cannot read the Bible and tell me that Jesus cared more about rules than about people. That he is somehow going to excuse us because well, we “followed the commandments.” No, you read the book we hold sacred and you see a God who loves the oppressed, who dies for them. He threw politics out the window. You see Jesus walking with those that you won’t even have a conversation with. Human relationships always trumped (ironic) the letter of the law. You see a God who loves and asks us to be the body of Jesus. To give until it hurts, and that means sharing your wealth. To give up your coat. To sacrifice so that others might share in what you have. You see a God who is going to rightfully call out the truth in us, and for us.

And the truth of the matter is that, as proud as you want to be of this country, we should be so ashamed of a number of things. We HAVE TO OWN the whole story. This country is not a white, Christian nation. We used, abused, tortured, and killed so many people groups and need to take full responsibility for that. Do you know who built our railroads?  Have you really strived to understand the enslavement of people because of their skin color? And the ways that still exists?? Do you have any idea what that looked like for human beings that deserve the same rights and freedoms that you have the privilege to carry because you happened to be born with white skin? Do you have any idea how many Native Americans we killed??? YOU SHOULD. This was not our land, and this is still not our land. This is God’s great earth and we are to tend it. We are to use it as a place of generosity, hospitality, and unity. We are not to strive for dominance and wealth, which is everything Trump values. Now, there are values that I am proud of in this country. And I do hold a profound amount of gratitude for what so many of died for. Our freedom, right? But to be proud to be an American can only happen if that freedom is actively being advocated and offered and available to all. My citizen African American brothers and sisters should not have to die for our comfort. For our freedom. For our power.

This is so much bigger than this one election. This is a huge reality check and some of us are completely traumatized by it. And I ache for those with far less security than me. I cannot imagine their valid anger, fear, and outcry. You should respect and honor that. It is sad that I even need to say that. It should be so clear. The pain that fills my eyes and the anger that is driving me to scream out to the Lord has to be a small portion of what Jesus felt when he overturned tables. And I am so flawed. I am guilty as well. But, I think it matters whether we are trying to do something about it or not. And in His great mercy and unfathomable love, Jesus, bleeding for us, somehow looked down at the people and asked God for forgiveness for them, for us, because we do not know what we have done.

Now, the scenarios running through my head of what could happen in this country may be a bit dramatic, but not unreasonable. Yet, I pray they are indeed blown way out of proportion in my imagination. And yet, the greatest pain comes when I really let the reality and fear sink in and realize that, if divided as it seems we are, I’ll be fighting on the opposite side of so many I love. And I won’t really be fighting, but praying. Advocating. Hiding perhaps. But to know that my heart and yours are in such different places is devastating to me. And can I share with you, that as a woman, I am so deeply hurt. It isn’t just the election, but the reality of the results sure dug the knife in deeper and then, twisted it. Women, half of the world, are still seen as less than; how can you handle that? Is that God? Is that what Christians stand for? That somehow women are still devalued, to the point where you would rather vote for a filthy man than to vote for a woman who has worked her butt off. Explain that to me. Tell me that you don’t have sexism ingrained in you as well. Ladies, it flows through us. We have been oppressed and have largely bought into this. I am guilty, and I fight it. It is killing me to sit here now, thinking of my daughter, and knowing that women were saying they would give up their hard-earned right to vote, if that meant Trump could win. Nauseating. Heartbreaking. That people are going to play the bologna email card against Hillary when your supposedly only alternative is a man who will do whatever he wants to, because he is a white male with money. He represents everything that I’m trying not to be or to allow. He is the rapist. He is the abuser. He believes his power gives him the right to determine whose lives matter. And that’s who you voted for? That’s who you want making decisions for your family, your friends, your neighbors? Because you agree with his politics? (that do not exist by the way…he makes them up as he goes, to get your vote). You are willing to check the box by his name because you believe that, even though he is flawed, he might somehow save America? From what exactly will he save it from?

As a way to close, I’m going to talk about those I love. So many faces fill my mind. Stories, memories, human lives. The people and things I’d be willing to lay down my life for. I’m going to share some of my beliefs and my positions, because I believe that I matter as a human being, as a woman. For starters, I am honored by the diverse friends in my life and the way they embody the beauty of humanity. I love my African American, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Mexican, Brazilian, Chilean, Taiwanese, Guatemalan, Ugandan, Ethiopian, and Cuban brothers and sisters, who have taught me so much about what it even means to love. To be human. I will fight with and for you. I care deeply for those who are rejected and ignored or ridiculed. Sexual minorities, those in poverty, with mental illness, those who are outcasted. Not heard and completely devalued so often by ignorant people. And that includes our rural farmers and those who have lost their jobs, their livelihood. That does matter. I’m sad if you somehow heard or perceived that it didn’t. That you didn’t. I also respect those with various religious beliefs, different from my own. I believe in a God of the universe who loves all people, Trump included. Even those we deem our enemies. Those who are destroying others. Somehow God, who when we were/are at our worst, in all of our sin, sent his only child to be brutally beaten and killed. I know that He died completely, and that His death was the victory. The moment you can love your enemy that way, you have already defeated hate, greed, and sin. And then, you have truly loved.

Thus, I have so much work to do over my lifetime. I will continue to strive to balance standing up for justice and loving graciously. Forgiveness–that is my goal. And because He loved me, I will strive to truly love others. To reach out to the sick, poor, needy, widowed, orphaned, oppressed. I will strive to be salt and light, even when that means confronting those I love with their choices as I expect them to do with mine. I will pray for those who have injured me and who have injured others. I will also, however, take a stand and advocate for those who have been put into a position where they do not have a voice that will be heard. I will fight for love and justice. I want to love our country, but I do not believe any country should be dominant. And with great power, comes enormous responsibility. So, if we are striving for true greatness, we will only achieve that by laying down what we think are our achievements. By giving up our power and comfort and our naiveté.

I love my children. My beautiful, strong daughter. I will tear apart any person that seeks to devalue her. I will continue to speak up about the longstanding and persistent gender issues that still embody our church. (So much more to say on that, but another time). I will teach her that she is not valuable because she is or is not beautiful, as subjectively defined by human standards. I will teach her, by example and word, that she is valuable because she is valuable. Because she is. She exists, she is human, and God gave her value. And the same for my young man. My son, who desperately needs role models, I will find those that can speak to him about humility, gentleness, and what true strength means. I will teach him that he does not need power, or wealth, or success, to be worthy of love and acceptance. That his greatest strength comes from his ability and choice to love others.  I’m not sure how I could kiss my children goodnight, quite honestly, if I had voted for someone who cares very little about human beings. That looks at my daughter and son and sees objects. I know many of you who voted for Trump do indeed love your children, and I am not trying to shame you. You made a choice and are probably uncomfortable with it. It’s just that I cannot reconcile the two right now.

I am so angry. But even more so, deeply crushed. Bleeding in pain. Writing has helped move some of the anger so that I can see even more clearly the person I want to be. But, I will not feel guilty for calling out the hatred that exists. I will not feel less Christian for feeling anger and for speaking up about it. Or for creating boundaries around just what I let you say to my children. You will have to answer to them when they ask the questions about who you voted for and why. My daughter woke up saying that she didn’t want to talk to anyone at school today. That she didn’t even want to converse. She, in her gentle and accepting spirit, has no words. I know she hurts so deeply and is trying to hold very complicated and heavy questions. My son stated that he was concerned about WWIII, and expressed that he feared he might die young. Can you hold that with me for a moment? And this is not because we go around bashing Trump or promoting apocalyptic thinking in our house. We have not talked about a war at all. This is because they truly get it. There is a lot at stake here. The country is fighting, divided, and many seem unwilling to offer empathy, to try to understand, and to grow in awareness. And I’m proud of my children for knowing that. For caring about it. For truly grieving and expressing themselves.

It is time for us to ask ourselves who we are. To search our hearts and minds and really be honest with ourselves and one another. I will pray for the church to mourn, to reflect, to come together somehow, and then to rise as the body of Christ, and to answer back with a love that will shake the ground we all walk on.

Hosting Pain.

There are some who, willing or not, have the task of hosting pain.
With or without permission, the cries of the world take root in our chests.
The tears wash through any deception in our blood that life is bliss.
We feel deeply. It is our calling perhaps.

Our own pain is significant, but we also taste the despair of others.
We possess the ability to see and to know the depth of human suffering….maybe because we have encountered it ourselves, even if only internally.
In the dark alleys of our hearts, are shadows of rejection, isolation, and death that are mysteriously our friends and enemies simultaneously.

Like the Thestrals in the Harry Potter story, in which only those who have seen death can see these beings that represent it, some of us can look into the eyes of another and know the deep anguish that resides beneath.
We can see it and breathe it.
We can recognize the devastation, the disappointment, because we are well-acquainted.
Because it dwells within us.

The biblical book of Job has always spoken to me on a level that feels just beyond my comprehension, just outside my grasp.
My eyes absorb the words and something within my heart is shaken.
“Wake up” the story whispers to me.
And my heart is taken captive by the narrative.
Not forcefully, but more akin to a surrender.

I have never experienced the tragic events held in the narrative of Job.
Not exactly. Not in “real life.”
I have not lost my closest family members to death or suffered so immensely from a physical ailment that marginalizes me from others.
Yet, I feel connected to Job, whether he is a literal or figurative character.
The truth of the narrative seeps through my pores and somehow finds itself already nested within my bones.
It is mysteriously a new story each time, yet one that feels as if we have known each other very well all along.

Job represents a tragedy, a truth, that is difficult for most to embrace.
Pain is naturally something we do not care to keep company.
We don’t understand it, can’t make sense of it.
And we want so desperately to get rid of it the moment it knocks on our door.
We peek to see what’s on the other side of that door.
We duck so it cannot see us through the windows.
We dive behind couches, close the blinds and curtains.
We plug our ears so we don’t feel as guilty or nervous about the seemingly relentless knocks and doorbells.
Suffering is an unwelcome visitor.

But I have realized that some of us have less of a choice.
Like others, we can certainly resist opening the door.
But pain keeps knocking; he is persistent.
And we recognize it through the peep hole.
It is real and it is part of life.
We know it must go somewhere.

Thus, we are left with a decision to make.
Hide, ignore, avoid eye contact?
We could surely resist and put up a fight, and we often do to some degree.

Or, we could open the door and allow the visitor to enter.
We might even greet her and offer a place to sit.
Be hospitable to pain.

What an odd concept.
Why would anyone want to welcome suffering in, let alone host it for any period of time?

This brings us back to the idea that some do not have as much choice as they would perhaps like to have.
We certainly all suffer and experience pain to some degree.
However, this is not exactly what I mean by being hospitable.

Hosting pain is instead an openness to the depths of humanity.
It is a willingness to allow fear, sadness, and anguish to enter and even set roots.
I’m convinced this is the burden that some have been asked to bear.
There are those in my life whom I have seen carry this task.
And I have felt and been told by those closest to me that I too carry this burden.
Yet…it is also a great gift.

For to be open to the depths also allows one to know the heights more fully.
To know in a way that is beyond words and that can transform our very being.
When the pain and suffering carve out paths in our heart and mind, there is more room for the truth of love, grace, and forgiveness to also wash through our bodies and our lives.

When we host pain, we also let his close cousin joy come through our door.
And we are able to cherish her because we know her kin.
For joy and suffering are closer cousins than one might think.
The light is incomprehensible unless we have truly seen darkness.
They are indistinguishable without one another.

Suffering, then, might be viewed as a great gift.
A costly one for sure, but a gift nevertheless.
And we can give of ourselves with this ability we have.
Our hospitality is also extended to those who have suffered.
We can hold them, embrace them, because we hold pain.

Their suffering certainly moves us, it can even overtake us…for a time.
But it does enslave us, not in the end.
It cannot.
For we are its host. We have opened the door and allowed it to sit with us.

I believe we each have opportunities in our lives to host this pain.
And it is never as simple as I may make it sound here…and certainly never easy.
As I reflect on my own life, I am also keenly aware of the cost and the ways in which even this “strength” or “ability” is not always used for good.

Very recently, grief and pain have been just below the surface for me.
They have arose from their dormant cavities.
The light has been harder to see at times and I have found myself reflecting on Job.
But recently thoughts of Christ have interrupted and filled my mind.
And not the light, glowing Christ that adorns children’s bibles.
Instead the human Christ, the one with the broken body.
The son of a father who sent him to take on all the depth and breadth of suffering.
Christ, though fully God, also stood as human and hosted the pain of the world.

As Christians, we often speak of ourselves as followers of Jesus.
We talk of Christ or the Spirit dwelling within us.
And in my darkest of hours, when I struggle to be hospitable to my (limited) suffering, I remember that I am not alone.

Because Christ also enters that door when we host pain.
In fact, we cannot behold Jesus without seeing the tragedy of the world.
We simply cannot gaze into his eyes without the pain of all humanity coming through to meet us.
We cannot be held by him, except by hands that still bear the wounds of suffering.
Or be kissed except with the lips that have also tasted the full bitterness of sin and death.

But even in the tragedy of that reality, I am encouraged and reminded that pain and suffering, even death, cannot reside in the house forever.
They will be driven out by something greater, to which they have no answer.
And I am reminded of Henri Nouwen’s poignant words:

“If the God who revealed life to us, and whose only desire is to bring us to life, loved us so much that he wanted to experience with us the total absurdity of death, then—yes, then there must be hope; then there must be something more than death; then there must be a promise that is not fulfilled in our short existence in this world; then leaving behind the ones you love, the flowers and the trees, the mountains and the oceans, the beauty of art and music, and all the exuberant gifts of life, cannot be just the destruction and cruel end of all things; then indeed we have to wait for the third day.”

And I smile through tears…and offer thanks for the third day when Christ will be the host and there will be no pain and suffering to attend to.

dark sunset