Our home has begun to bustle with that familiar surge of energy and excitement that comes each year as the holidays (and a couple of birthdays) approach. Days before Thanksgiving, and my children are eager for our home to be full of friends and family. For their bellies to be full of those once-a-year kind of treats. For their hearts to be full of the joy and anticipation of the season. For their noses to be full of those smells that seem to make the whole of life make sense.
But for me, the air has another unfamiliar scent this year. No matter how I’ve tried, I struggle to take hold of the holiday cheer with usual ease. I know the holidays are already layered for many of you – with grief and loss, longing or heartache. But this thing in the air right now…it stings the nose and disorients the heart.
There’s a thing I haven’t wanted to write about, but nothing else will come. It’s sticking to me like peanut butter to the roof of my mouth. I’m tired of all the words, but I can’t seem to move forward without adding mine to the story. Maybe you can relate. It’s like the song I can’t get out of my head. Except I’m not sure I want to. There is something happening here that needs our attention. And as I walk into a season marked with giving thanks and preparing our hearts to receive anew the gift of God With Us, I need to link arms with you on something.
Our children feel it too. They have seen and heard all kinds of things these last weeks and months. And just like when they fall down and look at my face before deciding if they are going to cry, they are looking now to see if it’s all ok.
This thing that won’t lift off my heart or get out of my head – I have to think it’s worth my intention to choose what story I’m going to tell on my face, in my spirit, and in where I choose to shine a light for them.
The titles we give to folks are a funny thing. The lofty ones come with a sense of power and greatness, honor and respect. These titles we stick to the front of a name can seem to grow the very size of a person.
I imagine that you, like me, have thought a bit these last two weeks about one such title. You may have taken moments to consider it’s grandeur, and all that rests under it’s authority. Perhaps you’ve allowed yourself to ruminate on the monumental task to direct the future of our country. To mark, or in some cases, dramatically alter the course of history. Maybe you have pondered the enormity of being granted that title by the people, for the people of this nation. Perhaps you’ve wondered how anyone could ever be truly worthy of it.
The President of the United States.
It strikes the ears with a unique magnitude. With authority to appoint leaders and declare war. With a voice to which we have looked to comfort us in the wake of crisis. With opportunity to inspire hope, and encourage endurance amidst uncertainty or catastrophe. With influence to build or destroy our nation’s reputation across the globe. With ability to give us a sense of identity and belonging, to make us proud, or to make us afraid.
In our home, we have worked to learn the names and faces of the past 44 Presidents. We have taught our children that this is a position of greatest honor –a powerful mark in history – worth giving our attention and teachable ear. And that God has a hand – that He ultimately chooses and appoints leaders, and that His plans cannot be thwarted. And friends, I believe this is still true.
The title of Mama is only lofty in our own hearts. We know the weight of it only because it sits down heavy on us when we climb into bed at night. But we mamas can’t turn a blind eye to the world our children walk into. We have to shine a light on ahead so we can be their guide as they encounter it.
In the wake of a harsh campaign full of ugly words and surrounded by a fog of fear, I am saddened. I am saddened that words like “campaign” and “election” feel ugly in themselves, though they might once have been full of promise, hope, and freedom. No matter where your politics rest this November, I hope we can unite in a sense that something is broken. I am saddened by the anger, the confusion, the division, the void left where dignity and pride and respect and heroism once stood.
This last two weeks, I’m considering the title I bear, and the little ones who look to me and their daddy to make sense of it all. Bearing the title of Mama may not gain us a place in the history books, but the history of our own family is being written before our eyes, and under our care.
And my spirit tells me that this is a moment in history through which I want to take great care in leading my children.
This truth gives me peace: “President” is a vast and heavy and awe-striking word to add before a name, but it doesn’t hold a candle to “Almighty God of the Universe,” who set the stars in place. He is the one who knit together the very body and soul of each President and each who cast their vote to elect him (or her, as the case may someday be).
In light of this, I’m looking to Him with the Greater Title to be the voice that comforts. To Him to be the one who shapes history. To Him to give hope and a sense of identity and belonging.
And in this light, I look for how to guide my children through this moment in history.
I want to prepare and equip my children (and myself) to bring a message of love and grace in an environment of hatred and judgment and deep division.
I want to have an answer for their confusion about what they are hearing, and what they have heard about those to whom they might have looked for leadership and example.
I want to have an answer for the deep divisions that seem to leave no space for loving and productive conversation around what I think – I hope – we can all agree is broken.
As I scan the aftermath of November 8th, and I look to friends, neighbors, and fellow Americans, I see a heavy and dynamic and complicated landscape. I wrestle with wanting to understand and categorize and rationalize what has happened among us, and who plays what role. But when I look in the faces of my children, there is only one thing I want them to see…not parties or movements, races or religions, groups or categories…but individual human hearts. I want them to simply see human hearts the way God sees them, made by Him and in His own image.
I want to teach my children to do it better – to get rid of bitterness and rage, anger and brawling, slander and malice (Ephesians 4), and to use their words to build up, rather than tear down. I want to demonstrate kindness and compassion – not just towards those who agree, but towards all people, regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or voting record.
I want to teach my children that our opinions and feelings ought not divide us, but provide an opportunity to extend compassion and kindness towards one another.
As I look at human hearts, I see hearts that are lonely with their pain, and see no space for it. I see hearts that are grieved and heartbroken. I see hearts that are relieved and hopeful. I see hearts that are offended. I see hearts that feel silenced for fear of offending. I see hearts that are deeply afraid. I see hearts that have been afraid for a long time. I see hearts that long for healing and wholeness in this country and the world, and believe differently how it comes. I see hearts that want to be seen, and didn’t realize who was hurt on their path. I see hearts that have been wounded and have turned on their neighbors because they want someone to blame. I see hearts that feel rejected and cast off. I see hearts that feel misunderstood in all kinds of ways and for all kinds of reasons.
There is a deep pain in some hearts, that we cannot neglect simply because we didn’t mean to hurt each other. It can’t be neglected by those who experienced tragedy and defeat that Tuesday night, or by those who experienced victory and relief. We need to name the broken thing for the sake of equipping our children to do it better.
Regardless of which candidate you believe was the better choice or the lesser of evils this November, the language of this campaign left some hearts feeling that there is no longer a place for them here in the United States. I’m grieved that we have refused to see each other. The election is over, and the voice of democracy has spoken, but friends, we have some cleanup to do. I want to invite our children to be part of the healing.
We need to have an answer for our children about how to love our neighbor who is different from us.
We need to have an answer for our children about the treasure and worth and profound beauty of a woman – that her body is not for the taking, and that her worth lies far deeper than her skin.
We can continue to disagree on all kinds of things, but let’s agree on the value of every human heart and life. Let’s agree that the lessons our children are learning in kindergarten, about not leaving someone out, taking turns speaking, and not using hurtful words…that these still apply when you’re a grown up.
Let’s be willing to see human hearts that are hurting for all kinds of reasons, with all kinds of stories, and voting records, and agree that those hearts are worth our attention and our listening ear. I want to have an answer for our children about loving all of God’s people, despite our differences, or our disagreements.
This title of Mama holds great blessing and tremendous responsibility…and almost no control. But I’m making an intentional choice for my tiny corner of the world. I’m choosing not to be another voice of what’s wrong with the world, and another finger pointed at who caused it all. I’d like to take this title of Mama that I’ve been given and use it to be a voice of hope… a voice of love for all people… a voice for the voiceless… a voice lifting up the only name and title that truly comes with power and authority – Almighty God.
I can’t control much, but I can control which direction I point the light I’m shining ahead for my children. And if I want to raise children who will rise above all of the noise, I need to point that light up into the heart of heaven. I can choose to point a light towards opportunities for unity and connection, rather than places of division. I can choose to point a light towards kindness and compassion, rather than bitterness and judgment. I can choose to point a light towards love rather than hate. I can choose to point a light towards gratitude rather than the bitterness and hopelessness that sometimes steal my heart away.
As we shine a light on the days and years ahead of November 8th, I want to link arms as champions of love. Let’s agree that we can’t march forward with the banner of love if only one side is held up. We need each other.
This Thanksgiving week, I’m choosing to give thanks that today I have a fuller picture of what is broken, than what I could see two weeks ago. I’m giving thanks for a window into the pain that must grieve the heart of God, because I want to be moved by what moves Him. I’m giving thanks for an opportunity to teach my children that the job of fighting for justice and caring for the marginalized really is our job, as followers of Christ. I’m giving thanks that we have the only hero we will ever need in Jesus, who was friend to the hated, the rejected, the outcast, the brokenhearted. I’m giving thanks that my God and Father is on the throne. And I’m giving thanks for you, whether you celebrated or grieved or a complicated mix of both on that Tuesday night, that we can link arms and teach this next generation to do it better.
I want you – specifically you – to hold your corner of this banner of love with me, and march onward.
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