Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.”-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
How to sum the past week, how to sum the shift of earth on her figurative axis, how to make sense of events just seven days past. I am at a loss, doubled over as the wind was punched from my gut. I am equal parts fear and hope, grief and deep-seated joy, devastation and renewal. The both-and roaring to life after this historic election. My disappointment and disbelief replaced only by anger and resolve.
The grief after the unlikely election of this man, has been typical and awful. After flying into Barcelona the day of November 8th, I laid awake in the night awaiting results. Watching the tick tick tick of states pledging support, at 3:00 AM I said to my sister-in-law, through quaking voice and shuddering tears, “Trump is going to win.” Her eyes widened, in disbelief I had to repeat. “Trump is going to win.”
Tracy and I flew to Britain as the election results were confirmed. After a night of sleepless stupor we wound our way through the cobbled streets of Birmingham, settling into a coffee shop with therapeutic sandwiches, cappuccino and wifi. Baristas clucked over us with knowing resignation, a grief that washed through their bodies just five months prior. The city held me through the next three days as I wandered in and out of disappointment, disbelief and despair, the ancient stone floor of St. Martin’s Church receiving the perfume of my wept offering. My heart broken in two for the people I love, the country I believed in, the hope for progress in a world characterized less by white, straight, male privilege and more by mercy and compassion for the oppressed and marginalized. The old stones whispered: I know. The wizened countenance of fellow Christians across the Atlantic: I know. The prayers prayed: I know. Jesus: I know, my dear friend.
Grief, dwelling on my sleeve, wore me thin, eye-makeup a wasted endeavor. The kindness of new friends, hugs made in the burger restaurant after stuffing my face. (Eating and drinking my way through Birmingham and Barcelona seemed to be how I needed to care for myself.) The kindness of fellow Christians praying with me, offering a hope-filled kick-in-the-pants, commissioning me to return bold and strong and fierce.
I’m home now, resolute in my call. The disbelief still present, but now more distant as I survey the drawn and defined lines, the Evangelical Church, my former home, has declared a resounding YES! to family values, to white privilege, to the good ‘ole days; and a defiant NO! to the precise people Jesus demanded we love. As a nation, I expect no less. As a Christian, I am dumbfounded but not surprised. The writing has been on the wall, the Christians have made their point. And now it’s time for me to cut the ties. This, I cannot stand by and watch. This, I cannot sign my name. This, demands I stand steadfast in my call to be a light, to love, to align with the least of these.
I stand with Jesus. Jesus who was betrayed, who offered his body and life so we could choose the same. Jesus who was and is Love in its highest form. Love in its greatest, most abundant expression. Love, which rises from the ashes of our assumptions and dead beliefs, declaring to the world, Talitha koum! Little Girl, I say to you, get up!
It is time to get up. It is now time to rise. My evangelical friends, you are welcome to join us. You are welcome to come alongside, if you’re ready, but I promise it will not be comfortable, easy or quick. This journey is real and it is not for the weary. Many tears and hours will be spent in prayer, if you’re still able to pray. Many tears and hours will be spent in abject humility and contrition. Many tears and hours will be spent in deconstructing everything you thought was true. Many tears and hours will be spent in the beautiful work of reconstruction, of aligning and identifying and discovering.
Our love cannot hold a “but”. Our love must say Welcome, Child. Get up! This rising is not for the weak of heart. This rising requires a fire in the belly and a resolution in the bones.
I will continue to experience grief and disappointment, this is the way of breath and life. I will continue the head shaking and the disbelief. I will continue asking questions. But, in time, this need will fade and I will completely leave my old ways and assumptions behind. I will not be privy to witnessing our most vulnerable be cast aside, be mocked, be ridiculed and placed in harm’s way.
In this election, safety was chosen over Jesus. Comfort was chosen over Jesus. Hate was chosen over Jesus. And in the days to come, I will stand firm, I will be fierce – but not for you, my former church. You have made your choice.
In the meantime, friends in the pews, if your heart starts to break, when you have more questions than you find answers, when you discover yourself trying to sit still on a Sunday while quivering from anger? Well, I’m here. You’re welcome to quietly, gently, humbly come and join in this most precious of communities – the most lovely, authentic and vulnerable of communities. This is where love dwells, where love carries the weak and wounded bodies and souls, where love is our greatest work, where suffering has shaped the bodies and souls of the best people.
Hopefully I’ll meet you there.