Days like these
I don’t know about you, but I have felt my anxiety rising over the last few months. I find myself trying not to look at the polls around the upcoming election. I find myself trying not to listen to the heated rhetoric that politicians are throwing out. I find myself not wanting to look at the pictures of refugees (many of which are children) that are fleeing their homes and countries. I find myself not wanting to turn on the news to see who was shot this week and for what reason. I find myself not wanting to hear the truth that there are 4000 homeless in Kitsap county and 700 homeless youth. The problem is, I can’t stop myself from hearing and seeing all of this. It is everywhere.
I have been asking myself one simple question of late… what should I do? I am not one that likes to dwell in discomfort, anxiety, and injustice, so I try to find a way to change it. The problem is many of these problems are so big that it feels like the best I can do is throw up my hands. But there is more that we can do than hide in a hole and wait for it to be over.
I have found that the first place I have start with is me. I regularly tell people that loving your neighbor as yourself also has to include yourself and if you are all wrapped up in anxiety and confusion and disappointment, how can you then effectively help your neighbor? My mind regularly goes back to Jesus’ first public miracle, when he turned water into wine at a wedding.
It is an odd first miracle. Shouldn’t he have been out doing something important like healing the sick or proclaiming the good news? But no, a wedding has run out of wine and suddenly it needs to be solved at all costs! But why? Because weddings were a big deal in the days of Jesus. There was no five day work week. There was no vacation time. And life was hard, much harder than it is now. So when a wedding came around, the people could stop, eat not just enough to get by, but enough to enjoy. They could celebrate hope and joy and all those things worth singing about. They could pause, take care of themselves, drink some good wine, and realize that life is about more than what is going wrong.
When I am at my height of being overwhelmed I get down on the floor and play with my kids, or I open a beer and turn on some sporting event, or I find a good book and playfully live in the dreams of another for a little while. We have to find ways to not always dwell on what is wrong and find ways to care for ourselves. We can’t only do that, but it is important to give ourselves permission to celebrate when we have the opportunity to celebrate.
But we can’t stop there. We do have the other side of loving your neighbor as yourself… you must love yourself AND your neighbor. And before we get too deep in this let’s be honest… you are not going to solve every problem that is out there, but throwing up our hands because there is too much that is wrong is also not an option.
I have never experienced a presidential election more important than this one. In my lifetime I have not faced a refugee crisis like that one we are currently facing. I cannot remember this many police involved shootings ever happening, although the statistics show 2015 was sadly similar to 2016. Kitsap county has never before faced the level of homelessness that is currently all around us.
If you find the presidential election is heaviest on your heart, or the refugee crisis or the recent shootings or homelessness… don’t let all the wrongs overwhelm you, celebrate when you can and act when it is necessary… and your actions are necessary now.
I am choosing to focus my energies now on homelessness, which is becoming a more troubling concern as winter approaches, but that doesn’t mean I’ll ignore the rest of what is going on, it just means I’ll work to target my anxiety and live out my calling.
This is probably not the article you were expecting, but it is the one that I needed to write. At this congregation we are a diverse group of people politically, ideologically, spiritually, and economically, but we are all followers of Jesus called to celebrate when we can, but also called to follow Christ in our daily lives. We must celebrate when we can and act when we must.
May you be blessed to be a blessing,