Here are some things I’ve learned as an adult churchgoer that are coming to mind as I gird myself for the future with our next president.
- At any given moment, one person can be having a transcendent experience while another person in the same pew, maybe the person sitting right next to you, can be enduring a kind of hell that can’t end a moment too soon.
- Some people sing beautifully, with rich harmonic sensibility. Others can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Regardless of where any of us are on the musical spectrum, some sing loudly, others quietly, others not at all.
- For some, a particular prayer or passage of scripture is a precious, delicate thing that must not be tampered with. For others, the same prayer or passage of scripture is an oppressive trigger.
- There are good reasons why the most frequent thing Jesus is reported to have said is, “Do not be afraid.”
- One person’s heroic messiah is another person’s evil terrorist who must be humiliated and destroyed.
- When forces of oppression and annihilation are on the loose, some people collude. Some people flee and hide behind locked doors. Some people keep their heads down and try to pass. Some people—usually those with the least to lose—run headlong into danger, testifying with their bodies or their words or their lives, to the irrational notion that love is stronger than death.
As last night’s election results began to coalesce, my father called me from his bed in the rehab unit where he’s recovering from a heart attack and emergency double bypass surgery. His first words were, “So. Where are you moving?”
My immediate reply surprised me, not so much with its content but with its ferocity, given how defeated and despondent I felt, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying and I’m fighting.”
As I talked with each of my parents last night, as we shared our laments and anger, I felt a deep and renewed appreciation for how that response to stay and fight for what I believe and whom I belove is something I learned from them. Even as I feel so sorry for their having to endure this latest election, I feel infinitely blessed that they are both still alive to remind me how to survive this election: with love, by love, for love.
Yes, some of us are grieving while others are celebrating. Some of us are dying while others are being born. Some of us are feeling liberated while others are being incarcerated, tortured, even murdered for who we are. This is how life is. This is how life has always been. Our task has always been this: figure out what you want your life to stand for and live it as fearlessly and courageously as possible. Take your inspirations where you can find them and build on them. Learn how to love both ferociously and tenderly, and then use that love to change what you can, in yourselves and in the world.
After last night, many of my friends are wondering what we tell our children, whether they are adults or not yet born or somewhere in between. This is what I’m telling mine. And I aim to live long enough for them to tell me their version of this when I need to hear it.
Come to think of it, they already have.