ON the Brink of a New Year

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I’m fifty now and I notice I have to fight harder to keep my optimism.  

Having acknowledged that, I think we’re in a crisis.  The world, as my father might have said, is going to hell in a handbasket (“Where are we going and why are we in this handbasket?”)  

I don’t have answers.  I don’t know how to fix this.  What I have are a few thoughts and some questions .  

I’m trying to speak up for justice while extending grace.  That’s my goal in life:  Follow Jesus who loves everyone and speaks truth to power.  That’s my hope for me.  It’s hard and I’m always failing (or flailing), but I decided thirty years ago it’s a worthwhile way to spend my life and I’m still here.

Being hateful does not bring peace.  

Getting angry is screwing up my blood pressure but isn’t helping the children I’m trying to defend.  

Every day–every single day that I pay attention to U.S. news, I get outraged by what’s going on.  News from Nicaragua, while smaller scale, often scares and horrifies me even more.  Those are both my homes and truly bad things keep happening in each.  I’m exhausted by this.  

I know you and I may disagree on some political issues (and if so, thanks for reading and not letting that stop you!), so you may not see the problems that I see.  But it looks really horrible to me right now, and even if it doesn’t to you, I think it’s hard to argue that the level of animosity and rancor over the political divide has risen to perilous levels.  

Two tempting “solutions,” neither of which I think are right:

Ignore it all and let my comfortable life take all my attention.  

I’m not starving.  I’m not fleeing a government trying to kill me.  No one is taking my children from me at the border because I fled a country trying to kill them.  I’m not being racially stereotyped or profiled.  Yes, I have some problems–many of them inside my own head–but I get to do a lot of things I enjoy and spend a lot of time with my family.  

So I can just mind my own business and let it “take care of itself,” whether it gets better or worse.  If it doesn’t need to be my problem, then it can be not my problem.  

Or

Rage on.  Keep spinning around, keep reading all the name-calling, mud-slinging, violence-hissing arguments by strangers, keep getting worked up and losing sleep.  Imagine that somehow “keeping informed” will do some good, or at least assuage my guilty conscience that I’m not doing enough good.  Get increasingly angry at people who cannot seem to see the suffering that I see, or cannot seem to experience any compassion or empathy for those suffering.  Gain more weight.  

So I can fight fire with fire, get angry at all this skubula and froth over it with the other people who feel as angry as I do about it, and together we’ll…be really angry.  

Nope 

and 

Nope.

 

I’ve got some plans for the start of the New Year, including a cleanse to cut out some of my recent horrible eating habits and and a better schedule for my writing.  Those will help, as would more consistent sleep.  

 

But I want to find some ground other than flight or fight.  I want to walk with people who see the problems and pursue solutions that involve loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us.  

In other words, I want to figure out how to resist like Jesus would.  

I am open to suggestions.  

How do I love people who…disagree with me?  

How do I love people who disagree with me and in so doing misbehave or treat me badly?

How do I love people who do these things as Christians?  

 

I know a few things.  I know Jesus commands us to treat others as we would want to be treated.  I have a thing for being treated kindly.  I like when people like me.  I feel loved when people listen to me.  So I try to offer those to others.  

Loving our enemies is hard; no one suggested it would be easy.  Most people don’t do it.  Here’s the crazy part: Jesus didn’t say to do it because it would work; Jesus said to do it to be compassionate like God.  Yeah, be like God.  Show compassion.  

 

Here are my questions. I ask them as sincerely and open-heartedly as I know how:

What are you doing to help change things while showing grace?

How are you keeping from being overtaken by anger and/or hatred?

What has been your experience of loving your enemies in these last two years?  

And finally, the biggest one for me, because this is my goal in the upcoming year:  Are there ways have you experienced coming together in community to be grace-filled agents of change?  Are you finding people to do this with and how are you working together as a team?  

If you do see this very differently than I, how are you loving people of the opposite perspective?  What do you find helps bridge the divide?  

I truly welcome responses to any of this.  

 

2 thoughts on “ON the Brink of a New Year

  1. Jason

    I believe Mr. Rogers once said, “Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.” I agree. Or at least I’ve found it harder to dislike people once I’ve learned their story.
    For me, I once believed people of rural areas were simple-minded conservatives simply out of being stubbornly closeminded. Take their views on the environment. To me, it seemed ruralites had this animosity towards nature. “Hunt to kill and feel like a man. And if we can kill an endangered species to piss off those tree huggers, even better.”
    Moving to rural Oregon taught me that my view of rural people was skewed. Do they have a different view of nature than I do? Yes. Is it because they are closeminded? Maybe not.
    In the town I live in, logging used to be a big part of the economy. Not many people here were wealthy enough to go to college, so they would go to work at the mill. But then laws from Portland heavily regulated logging in the name of environmental reasons. This meant mills had to cut back and most people were fired. That left the town economically crippled and it hasn’t recovered.
    Now how do you think the people of this town view environmentalism? Yep, you guessed it. They hate it. From their perspective, a bunch of urban people used their power and ideals to put a town out of business. This becomes extra frustrating when you as a ruralite live and work in nature (whether as a logger, a farmer, a forest firefighter). Your knowledge of nature is firsthand. Then you have people from the city tell you, “You’re wrong. We actually know more about nature than you do. And we’re going to make laws so you can’t cut down those poor trees.” I can see how as a ruralite it would be maddening to have urbanites telling me how to live.
    Do I still disagree with ruralites? Yes. But I understand where they’re coming from. Living among them (and I guess you could I am one of them by the simple fact I live in a rural area) I’m learning more about their story.
    All this to say, Mike, that we can love those we disagree with when we learn their story.

    • This is very helpful, my friend. Reminds me how much I miss you and our conversations.
      I didn’t grow up in the rural northwest, but I did grow up in a rural area. I absolutely get how different the perspective is from many urbanites and how frustrating this difference coupled with a smaller population is. Thanks for the reminder. And I’m going to try to do a better job of learning others’ stories now. Good goal for 2019.
      Love to you, Brother.

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