Today is Election Day. I have to admit that I will be glad when it's over. Although I'm thankful to live in a country where we have a voice in our government system, I tire of the way we are inundated with commercials and election signs this time of year.
This year, I have become increasingly aware of my own attitude toward those running for public office. My "knee-jerk" reaction is that I don't trust them. It doesn't matter who they are or which party they represent, I just don't trust them.
When the ads come on, I automatically feel a tension rising up inside of me. The tension that is created by being unsure of who is lying and who is telling me the truth.
We all know what that feels like and it's uncomfortable. This tension is nothing new for me and I deal with it a lot. It's caused problem in relationships because they often feel unsafe. It has even caused a problem with my relationship with God.
Even though it's hard to admit, sometimes I have moments where I not only question whether I can trust God, but I question His very existence. As soon as those thoughts come into my head, they bring a lot of shame with them. How, after all God has done for me, would I wonder if He's real? I must be really bad!
This happened a couple of weeks ago and I beat myself up once again. Then I heard the Spirit of God tell me to not get into such a tizzy and to give myself some slack. I felt that God was reassuring me that the source of my problem isn't that I don't believe Him, but that I am simply reacting to the experiences that have shaped my lack of trust in people. He just gets thrown into the mix.
Throughout my life, I have had key people who I could not trust. All of my adult life, I have experienced a relationship where this tension between lies and truth was always present. I was never sure which was being told and it kept me off balance. Because of this, it has shaped me, formed me into someone who naturally doesn't trust.
God impressed on me that to combat this feeling of distrust, I need to remember how He has worked in my life in the past, and I need to be listening the the stories of how He has worked in others' lives. I needed to work within my own "back-story" and looking for reassurance was not only okay, but was necessary.
After this "aha moment", I started to realize how we are all so affected by our individual experiences. When Robin Williams committed suicide, I realized how my own reaction to the news greatly differed from the reaction of most people. Since my own father had committed suicide when I was young, I found myself experiencing anger over what he had done to his family and felt great empathy for what his children were now dealing with. Some might tend to judge my reaction harshly, because they wouldn't know my back-story.
It made me wonder how many times I have judged people reactions, views, attitudes, and even theology unfairly because I didn't know their back-story. I didn't know what experiences they could have had that could so influence how they interpreted the world around them. I've heard it said that we make assumptions about people based on only 4% of the information available.
I recently attended a conference where a spoken-word artist named Propoganda shared his beautiful work with us. He presented a poem that he had written about the LA riots a few years ago and it was powerful...and uncomfortable. It was eye opening to hear the struggle of racial bigotry from the perspective of a young, black man from the inner city.
He definitely has had an entirely different experience than this white, middle-class, small-mid-western-town, middle-aged woman. When I listen to the struggles he experienced from his perspective, what right do I really have to judge his attitudes, his views, his theology or his political ideals? Of course he's going to see things differently and even though I don't understand it, I need to hear it.
In Ephesians 4:32, God is reminding us that we need to be kind and compassionate to each other. I am discovering that often times, that kindness is simply to listen to other points of view, even if we don't like them, looking for the deeper story. Instead of making the decision to shut them out, to open ourselves up to them instead.
The past couple of days, I have even tried to apply these thoughts on the campaigns ads that I have encountered. I can automatically see a candidate who doesn't have the same opinion I hold on a point of legislation as the enemy. I can defame them even in my own mind.
Even though I feel that it's good that we all have convictions and are loyal to them based on the principles and often times theology of what we feel is important and sacred, there are some issues that simply come down to how we view opportunity cost and outcome.
Those running for public office all have such different ideas of how things should be done and why. I am finally seeing how a lot of their views have been shaped by their own experience, just as mine have affected my ability trust and Propoganda's have affected his views on racial tension.
I am convinced that one of the ways that we can connect honestly with other people is through understanding and a little more acceptance. We may not agree with them, and sometimes we really shouldn't, but just think how we can share the love of Christ if we at least open up the dialogue instead of closing our minds.
I hope to think that by the next time the elections roll around, that I will have a more open mind to really hear why some support the issues they do. It's hard in the political realm because sometimes their own ideals are controlled and influenced. But, in the mean time, I will be trying to see people for who they are, what they have been through, the hurt they have endured and possibly the shame that influences their sometimes hard to understand attitudes.
This is a hard thing to do, but as followers of Christ, we are called to do hard things. We are called to love as He loves, and we are called to die to our own desires. Even if the desire is to stay in our comfortable closed minds. I know that I am feeling the need to be a little more uncomfortable. How about you?