Three or four months ago, I had a conversation with friends who are a few decades older than I am. Politics came up, because it always does. I made the comment that, although I realized the political situation seemed dire with so much at stake, I was pretty confident that in the scheme of things, the turmoil of this moment too would pass. And, I continued, no matter the outcome, it wouldn’t end up being as dire as it seemed right then.
My friends disagreed.
This was dire, they said. We are in desperate times, they said. So much is at stake, they said.
They made it sound end-of-the-world apocalyptic-ish, and these are not apocalyptic-predicting folks. (Trust me, because I know some of those kind of folks, too.)
Well, girls, let me be candid. When I read Scripture, that’s not the message I read.
Recently, your children’s Bible poignantly paraphrased Jesus’ words to his disciples after he calmed the storm. Jesus asked his friends, “Why did you believe your fears instead of me?”
I heard your dad read that question out loud, and I’ve heard it dozens of times before as we’ve paraded through these stories, but for some reason it really settled into my heart that night.
Why did you believe your fears instead of me?
I’ve been trying to avoid writing anything political in any sort of public place, and though it is an impossible task, I’ve tried to avoid reading what people I love are saying about politics. Because these well-meaning, Christian people whom I love dearly are saying some very unloving things (or at least sharing links to words that are very unloving).
The thing is, I am blessed to be friends with folks of all political convictions, people who hold their convictions tightly and have well-thought out reasons to support the political parties they support. It’s good to have friends with varying perspectives and life experiences. In fact, I feel fortunate to have friends with whom I disagree, because it does help me to think more objectively about difficult issues.
But lately, in trying to be honest about their own convictions, many of my friends have said unkind things.
Girls, they are saying these unloving things because they are afraid.
They are saying these unloving things because they believe that much is at stake. Too much is at stake. It seems they think everything is at stake.
And yet I read the gospel, and I am studying the history of the early church, and I hear Jesus saying to me, “Why are you believing your fears instead of me?”
I remember being taught as a young evangelical child that the basic message at the heart of the New Testament was to love God first, neighbors second, and ourselves last. JOY was the pneumonic used to drive it home. I’ll probably teach it to you, too. Jesus. Others. Yourself. JOY.
As an adult in this season of life, raising children in my thirties, being a leader in my church, sending down roots in this place we call home, every single time I open the Gospels, I am convicted that I am not loving others enough.
I am convicted that the call to serve Jesus and serve the Kingdom of God is a radical and difficult journey of love. Love is hard. All the time.
That journey of love is one of vulnerability, not security. That journey is one of hospitality, not fear of the stranger. That journey is one of healing, not sowing division. That journey treats all life as sacred, even those we see as dangerous, those who seem threatening to our way of life.
That journey of love? Well, it challenges our way of life.
Because that’s the point. There shouldn’t be any “our” in what we are trying to protect.
This life was never “ours” to begin with.
And so I ask myself frequently, what is the way of life the Kingdom has called me to, still calls me to?
What I know is that it is pure grace that pulls me along to see in scripture, to see in my neighbor, to see in your bright eyes and compassionate souls what I know to be true even when I am tired and scared and worried about your future.
What I know to be true is the gospel.
It’s a gospel of hard, vulnerable, compassionate love.
It’s the gospel of this-world-is-not-your-home.
It’s the gospel of nothing-is-as-dire-as-it-seems.
It is the gospel of the-least-of-these are at the heart of the Kingdom.
I hope you see this radical love at the heart of the gospel message, girls.
And I hope you don’t believe your fears instead of Jesus.
You’ll have fears, girls, lots of them. I know I do. But that’s when I turn to the words of Jesus. It sounds so cheesy, but there you have it.
In the life I see him leading, I can’t find any reason to make excuses about my safety, my financial security, even the safety of my family.
It’s reassuring to me to know that you won’t read these letters for at least another decade. By that time the crazy political season of 2016 will just be a blip in the history of our country. You might not even be able to remember who the candidate was that lost the election. (This is hard for me to imagine, but I’ve been amazed at how little the current college students know or remember about events that seem so pivotal in my own memories. Then again, they were your age when the Towers fell in 2001.)
Yes, I am confident this election’s anger and hostility and everything-is-at-stake chaos will fade.
But you know what won’t fade?
The way of love you are called to. The way of life I am called to.
And if you hear me in ten or twenty years making excuses about why I can’t love my neighbor as myself, you can remind me of that question Jesus asked his disciples, these friends who had already seen him feed the 5000, cast out demons, and heal the sick: “Why did you believe your fears instead of me?”
You can ask me that, girls. I will need to hear it.