My blog has been silent for a few weeks. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say; I just haven’t had anything I wanted to put in print.
Think of the flood of stimuli my brain has been processing — in addition to the madness that we will call the election of 2016, my husband and I traveled to South Africa for a week, came back for a week, and then went to Austin, TX for four days. Oh, and we’ve also been holding down our day jobs — he’s the dean of students at a small university and I am an adjunct professor of English and a private tutor.
I’ve really wanted to write more about what we observed in South Africa and how that has informed the ways in which we see our community, but when we got back, we saw things in our community that were very unsettling — so much posturing and name-calling, blaming and shaming. We, or perhaps I should switch now to I, I reeled.
While in South Africa, we were in a unique position to just observe. For as long as I can remember, my husband and I have been in positions of leadership, so being free to observe with no responsibility for others was very unusual. We met people, heard their stories, were inspired by their dreams, saw their struggles, and shared their joys. We didn’t really do anything other than bear witness to their lives. And then, about a week later, we were put in a similar position. In Austin, although my husband had minimal responsibilities, for the most part, we were again observers. Seeing. Listening.
Is it too egotistical of me to imagine that God crafted these experiences so that we could come back and observe what has been happening in our very own community, in our very own country? Because I really think that is what happened. For the last two weeks, we have been watching and listening. We debrief with one another in the evenings, of course, and I’ll admit, I’ve shared a bit on social media, but for the most part, we have tried to position ourselves in conversations in which we can hear what people are saying. We want to understand how a country can be so divided. We want to be able to speak peace into the hostility. But how? People are positioned. They are sunk in. Nobody seems to want to move. Where do we start?
So, yesterday, when I walked into church and saw who would be our pastor for the day, I hugged him and said, “Yay, we’re going to get a good word!” I was joking around with him a little, because he’s a dear friend, but I think I was really speaking my hope that God would speak a good word through him.
And guys, He did.
Now, let me just give my standard disclaimer. I am very distractible in church. My husband often asks me about his sermon — did his main point come through? What did I think about a particular illustration. I want to be generous to myself and say that 50% of the time I can give him a meaningful response. My mind often takes tangential journeys away from the sermon. So, I won’t mention the pastor’s name or try to claim what he actually said. I will tell you what I heard.
Jesus reigns. Over everything. Period.
No political candidate reigns. No political party reigns. No particular country reigns. No particular church body reigns. I don’t reign.
It has been rather tempting over the past days, weeks, months to become aligned with a particular ‘side’, hasn’t it? I have heard Christ-followers on both sides (myself included) claim that certainly Christians “should” feel this way or that. And we’ve been making these claims waving our fists in the air at each other. We are passionate, are we not? We are passionate about politics, but are we just as passionate about our True Leader?
I gotta admit, I’ve been misdirected.
My friends in South Africa showed me what it looks like to be passionate about the One who reigns. They worshipped — I mean singing, dancing, clapping, marching worship — for almost three hours! They breathe thankfulness and reverence as they walk through their days.
Me? I’ve been grumbly and judgmental. It’s almost as if I’ve forgotten that Jesus reigns over everything. Will he stop reigning if we turn and go our own way? Nope. We’ve seen story after story written in His Word about generations who have turned away to idols and godlessness. Yet, He reigns.
We’ve heard stories about how God has worked among peoples who are oppressed and disadvantaged. We know that He is a God who steps into difficult places and makes a way for His people. Will He stop now? No. He will continue to reign.
So, should I stand idly by? No. However, I want to be careful that what I speak gives honor to the One who reigns. I want to, as someone recently said, “speak Truth to crazy.” The only way I know to speak Truth, is to look at what is written. I can’t rely on myself right now. Not in this emotionally-charged environment. I need to turn, once again.
So what has been written?
“Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Yes, even that neighbor.
“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” Ouch.
“Be devoted to one another. Honor one another above yourselves.”
“Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.”
How about if we start there? What if Jesus-followers across the country and around the world just saw and loved the people in front of us? What if we stopped shaking our fists and really cared about individuals in ways that showed we were devoted to them? What if we cared about the widow, the fatherless, and the foreigner? What impact would that have?
I’d like to find out. Wouldn’t you?
“It is written; Christ is risen. Jesus, you are Lord of all.”
Stronger, Hillsong Worship