These are strange days, my friends. Painful days. Confusing days. Frustrating, broken, unknown days.
And as a writer, I feel that I have some responsibility to respond to these days – to the world I see around me. I tend to be careful doing that – favoring thought-pieces over strong-handed “here’s what I think” posts. And maybe, in so doing, I’ve been unclear. Or soft.
Over the past week, I’ve had several friends challenge me to get angry.
And I think what they mean by that is to take a stand. To voice more strongly my opinions and emotions over certain issues and policies.
And maybe they are right.
But I’ve largely refrained from that for many reasons, not least of which is that being angry and combative is so unaligned with my personality. Am I opinionated? Yes. Strong-willed? Certainly. But pushing and fighting and arguing? It makes me wildly uncomfortable.
In Enneagram speak, I’m a textbook 3 who, in times of stress, goes hard and fast to 9.
In regular words, it means that when I’m upset or see people disagreeing, my natural response is to want everyone to get along. To field all available opinions. To calm people down. To retreat.
Case in point: I spent the weekend in the woods of Wisconsin with my kiddies, away from civilization and cell phone coverage. On the bus ride home on Sunday afternoon, I pulled out my phone and read about the EO restricting immigration and banning refugees.
I spent the rest of the bus ride curled up in the fetal position with my headphones in, partially because I was sad, but also because I was pissed off.
Because if I’m honest, I am upset. I am angry.
I’m upset that thousands and thousands of people who are running from violence and need a safe place to land have fewer and fewer places to turn.
I’m upset that so many American Christians seem to be choosing fear and safety over faith and sacrifice.
I’m upset that such a large number of people felt ignored and unheard for so long that we ended up here in the first place.
And I’m upset at myself for ignoring and not listening.
I’m upset at evangelicals whose opinions and actions make it hard for me to defend my own evangelicalism.
I’m upset by the things our elected officials say.
I’m upset by the things our President says.
I’m upset by many things our government is doing, and in particular, how they are doing them.
I’m upset that my immediate reaction is to vilify those who think differently than I do instead of listening and working together.
I’m upset that people with depths of hate in their hearts for various people groups now feel vindicated in acting out, speaking out.
And I’m upset to see the corners of my own heart where hate and prejudice live and react.
I’m upset that we seem to be letting politics take precedence over people.
I’m upset that dishonesty is the ruling discourse of our times.
I’m upset that so many people now feel even more vulnerable and targeted and excluded and at risk than ever before.
I’m upset that I feel helpless to act in my warm, safe home in my kind, safe community.
I’m upset by the example American Christians are setting for the global Church.
I’m upset by the example we are setting for the rest of the world.
I’m upset that everyone seems to have lost the ability to listen – particularly to those who hold different opinions and, frighteningly, to experts who have spent their whole lives mastering a field.
I am upset.
I am angry.
At our country. Our President. Our government. The Church. And myself.
I feel it deeply and personally. I have spent many a moment hurting and praying and crying out to God.
If I’m not careful, this anger can consume me.
(And you knew there had to be a but.)
Despite all my anger, the only thing I know to be true is that I need to respond with grace, hope, and love.
I can be upset (and I am) and I can disagree (and I do), but I also remind myself every day to listen despite. To hope despite. To love despite.
If I really want to be in the business of bridges not walls, then I need to actively seek out, build, and respect relationships with people who fundamentally disagree with me.
It means I love (actively and well) refugees AND, at the same time, love (actively and well) the people who want to keep them out.
I’ll admit that I’m not good at this. That most of the time, I don’t even know where to start.
I don’t always know what love looks like when you completely disagree with someone.
But I’m trying to learn. And as I’m learning, I’m trying to continually listen. Be challenged. Grow.
I’m marching and calling representatives, but doing my best to refrain from calling names. I’m going to stand for what I believe in and let you know when I disagree, but I want to respect your humanity in the process.
Because, here’s the deal. We’re all trying to figure this out. And we’re all children of God.
Refugees and immigrants and rural and urban and white and black and suburbanites and ISIS and senators and single moms and Planned Parenthood employees and alt-righters and representatives and foreigners and babies and prisoners and liberals and conservatives and yes, even Donald Trump himself.
And no one is too far gone for Jesus. No one is outside the scope of redemption.
And that is one the hardest, best, most frustrating, incredible truths I know.