Good Friday morning ...
A week or so before Christmas I entered our church office where our secretary and associate pastor were in conversation and I announced: "Just so you know, I'm in a foul mood!" They both laughed.
Since I am not one who gets easily upset or shows outward displeasure, they had never seen me in what they would consider a foul mood. So, they thought it was funny.
But I wasn't being funny! I am in a foul mood and find that I have been for some time.
Some of my foulness has to do with the coronavirus that has stymied our family gatherings and prohibited visits with our twelve grandchildren. I miss the back-and-forth trips up I-95 to NC and VA. Some of my foulness has to do with my pent-up desire to get back to Tanzania where I can temper my "Chronic Africa" disease. After twenty years, part of my heart resides in Maasailand and I am anxious to see Maasai friends and partners in ministry.
But most of my foulness I am realizing is from what I see happening in our country. I am deeply troubled by the disagreements, the partisanship, the divisiveness, the polarization that pervades our country. More disturbing is the blatant disregard, the venomous words, and even the hatred shown by many to those with whom they disagree. In America right now, we are in some very turbulent times as our nation goes through the aftermath of the November election and the events that scarred our national psyche taking place in Washington, D.C. this week.
Obviously, the turbulence and tension has been building for quite some time but what I am seeing today is a contempt for others that one normally reserves for one's enemies. I don't know that I have ever used that word "contempt" in my writing before. To me it is a powerful word. When contempt sets in, the outcome is not good. It's not good for our nation; it's not good for our communities; and it's not good for our personal well-being. It is destructive. And to see it and hear of it, sets me in a foul mood.
I share this not as a member of a political party ... not as a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian, a conservative, a liberal, a progressive or whatever. I share this as an American ... one born at the end of World War II, one having lived through the Korean Conflict, the race riots of the 50's and 60's, the Vietnam War of the 60's and 70's, the Cold War with the USSR in the 80's, the dotcom bubble burst of the 90s, the terrorist attacks (both domestic and foreign) perpetrated against the US, the 9/11 attack of 2001, and the ongoing conflicts with the Middle East.
After wrestling with my foul mood for a while, I have come to a simple conclusion: how I conduct myself as an individual and how we conduct ourselves as a community, will set the tone for how we come out on the other side ... regardless of who holds power, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, regardless of who controls Congress.
It's about how we lead ourselves, our communities, our families, our businesses, our churches that will decide how we fare on the other side .... regardless of our political party. It's about how we show up for each other as Americans. For that to happen we need to trust. It must be a bridging trust that goes beyond our individual hopes, dreams and desires ... that goes beyond our ethnicity, our own religion, our own social economic status, and our own political party. It is an attempt to find common ground that we can rally around instead of dividing ourselves by our differences. It is an individual effort to fight for a sense of "we" in an "I" minded culture.
I have decided that to wait for someone in Washington to model this behavior is futile. It's not going to happen; at least as far as I am seeing it. And, as an American, I'm not happy with that. In Washington, it's all about power and that is certainly not the answer to our dilemma. In Washington, there are too many who are busy defending their turf and scrambling to retain their power over against fighting for and demanding what is best for America.
To me, that's unacceptable.
So, what can I do? I can start by attempting to regulate my own emotional temperature by guarding what I read, avoiding social media, turning off the news, going for a workout, a walk or a run, spending time looking for the truth in current events, praying and studying God's Word. I need to think long-term, to be more concerned about what I hand over to my grandchildren for their future than about how I end up in my short term left on this earth. I need to seek to connect with the common ground that exists between myself and those with whom I differ. That common ground is there; we just have to identify it and connect to it.
Abraham Lincoln at the dawn of the Civil War wrote: "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection."
Either we are going to hand our children a society where the in-groups and the out-groups fight each other at every twist and turn or we are going to offer them a society that bridges a trust that goes beyond our vision verses their vision ... a society that rallies around a common vision that is bigger than ourselves.
For my part, I have to shed my foul mood, look to and think of a brighter future, and base that future, not on what I see, but on what God sees for me. In the end, we can only do what we can do and must leave the rest to God who sees all things, knows all things and governs all things. In Him I must put my trust in order to become a more trusting person when it comes to those with differing thoughts and opinions. Ultimately, I must better learn to trust God in the dark.
"The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults and with my song I give my thanks to Him." [psalm 28:7]
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." [Romans 15:13]
Have a blessed weekend ... as I shed my foul mood and get on with life under the umbrella of God’s grace....