Today I’m writing to you. You might be a Jesus follower. You might be spiritual and seeking light in this darkness. You might feel alienated or rejected or even orphaned from your community. Trust me, I know a lot of people who feel as you do. I talk to them every day. I talk with us every day.
I’ve got two things to tell you, and I’m going to sound irrationally hopeful and confident. I’m here on my couch with our dog Nicki sleeping on my arm. Maybe a sleeping dog with the lightest of snores–okay, not the lightest–makes one feel like everything could turn out alright after all. And I do mean all.
Jesus remains faithful. I can’t explain why people who pray to the same God as we pray can see things, facts, faith, diametrically opposite to how we see them. I’ve tried and tried to understand and I concluded–maybe five minutes ago–that it’s not my job to understand. I can’t persuade them. I need to keep speaking the truth that God shows me. I need to show grace and kindness in disagreement. I’m learning to do those.
You can do this. That’s the first thing. You can be light in this darkness. You’ve done it; you can do it; you’ll keep doing it. I’m not debating in this one whether we’re in darkness. Part of what makes us feel crazy every day is that somehow we have to debate this fact. That’s exhausting. Today’s was “human scum,” but it’s a new one every day. Every day an outrage and every day spin and justification. Every. Freaking. Day. But we know what’s right and this is wrong. Not that we know everything, not that we’re perfect or have infallible judgment. But this is clearly wrong and we have to speak and act against it. We have to and we are.
The worst time in my life came after my father died and three weeks later our infant son, Isaac, died. Darkness closed in on me. They died in late June and early July and I remember smiling in December, maybe even laughing a little, and thinking how strange it felt, how odd on my face and in my throat. Three years I walked in darkness after their deaths and I didn’t know if I’d come out the other side. But I did. Each day that I survived and found reasons to hope and smile, hell, found reason to breathe, I was moving closer to coming back out into the light. It wasn’t all at once. But I did wake up one morning to discover that my sense of God’s presence had returned. Theologically, I don’t think God showed up again after checking out for three years. But experientially, it was a lot like that.
We are moving through this darkness. Today we are closer to being out than were yesterday. I don’t claim to know what coming out of this will look like. But I believe this is how we survive and how persevering feels. Some days it feels that the only news is bad to worse and then worse again and we’ve all lost the ability to be shocked anymore (which feels awful, by the way). Other days, the dog snoozes on my arm and the polls suggest people might be coming to their senses and I remember more clearly that Jesus has walked with us all through every bad ruler and dark time and while this is new and appalling for us, it isn’t new to him.
That’s the first thing: You can do this and we are doing this.
Second, how we walk through this darkness matters. We can fight our way through it and do the right things and come out angry and hardened and even hateful. We could fight for the right things and become something other than what we’re called to be, what we hope to be. We can fight the darkness and let the darkness in. We have to choose not to this. As I’ve said before and will keep insisting on, in following Jesus the ends never justify the means.
We need one another to keep speaking hope and love and truth and empathy and compassion. No one is beyond redemption. Love transforms. Truth will set us free. Love our neighbors as ourselves. Love our freaking enemies. If you’ve been part of a church and right now those in your church tell you that everything happening is wonderful and God’s plan and the pastor tells you to pray for God’s protection for this unfairly persecuted President, look for the people who can speak truth and life to you. By the same token, if you have a faithful, supportive community right now, whether your gang of friends or your part of Christ’s body, watch for those who feel cut off and isolated, rejected and adrift.
That’s the second thing: How we walk through the darkness matters as much as that we walk through the darkness. We need one another to walk through this with Jesus, in love. We need one another’s encouragement and succor (don’t get to use that word enough!) and refuge. We need to pool our hope and our strength. We need to lean on one another’s faith on the days when ours gets shaky. Today mine is strong; tomorrow might be a different story. I’ll check in with you.
I’m writing this because friends keep telling me how I’m encouraging them in the midst of this darkness. Of course I’m glad to hear that. I get, more clearly all the time, how much it matters right now. As I said, it’s not my job to understand* people who approve of what’s going on; it is my job–maybe even my calling right now–to help give voice and validation to all of us who obey Jesus by resisting.
*It remains my job to love them (perhaps you), of course.