I didn’t intend this post to be based on a Bee Gees song. Really, I didn’t. But that was the first thing that popped into my head when I was trying to come up with a title. And it seems fitting.
The last two days have been brutal. This is on top of an already brutal, seemingly endless, presidential campaign. The rhetoric was so mean-spirited, the debates so bitter, and the stories so vile, that I couldn’t wait for the campaign to be over. But now we have a winner and it hasn’t helped. In fact, it feels like we’ve only just begun (and suddenly we have a Carpenter’s song reference as well). There are protests, both here and abroad. And people are even more deeply divided. Peace, it seems, is even further away than before.
Personally, since Tuesday night I have been filled with anxiety and sadness, worrying especially for the safety of my loved ones and neighbors who are different, whether by race, nationality, religion, sexuality, ability, economic class, etc. I have worried about women and other survivors who saw our president-elect joke about sexual assault. I have grieved that a man who was endorsed by the KKK was elected to our highest office.
I didn’t know what to do with my pain. First, I prayed, because isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? Isn’t that what I’ve been trained to do? Isn’t that what I teach others to do? If you’re in pain, go to God. So I did. And that helped for a little bit.
Then I decided to get creative, because isn’t that another healthy way to channel your pain? Isn’t that what art therapy is about? Isn’t that how many of the world’s great art pieces were created? I began to work on some new hand-stamped jewelry. Since this involved hammering things, it was somewhat cathartic. I focused on hammering out the phrase, “Deeply Loved.” As many of you know, it’s a phrase that holds great meaning for me, and it seemed to fit this moment in time; no matter what, we all need to remember we are deeply loved by God. Then, perhaps, we can begin to express that deep love to others, even those with whom we disagree.
And that helped. For a little bit.
But little by little, my grief turned to anger. I wanted my friends and family who were celebrating the election outcome to know my pain. More so, I wanted them to feel my pain, and understand it. I wanted them to recognize this was not a time to celebrate. I wanted them to know how angry I was. Perhaps, then, they would see that I was right. So I logged on to Facebook and called out a few of them, trying to engage in debate.
But that didn’t help. Not even a little bit. In fact, it just made me feel worse.
And so I started fresh this morning with yoga and deep breathing and prayer. I kept coming back to that phrase, “deeply loved.” I sat in silence and held up the people who, like me, are feeling great pain right now. We need to know we are deeply loved by God. Then I held up the people who, unlike me, are celebrating. They need to know they are deeply loved by God.
Did you catch that? We need to know. They need to know. We. Them.
Us versus them. Them versus us.
That’s been the problem all along. We are at this place in history because we have this mindset of us versus them. The campaign season certainly proved that; you were either for the right candidate or you weren’t. So it’s no wonder the election results are creating an even deeper divide between us and them. If we keep up like this, we’re in big trouble.
The real issue is that the election results point to deep pain and fear in our nation. It’s pain and fear that they experience, so it is remote. I don’t understand it, so I don’t have to identify with it. Thus, it’s no wonder I’m surprised when it wells up to the point of over flowing and I can’t contain it and it really becomes an issue for me. Similarly, they don’t understand my pain, and thus don’t identify with it. No wonder we’re not getting anywhere.
That’s why I think the phrase deeply loved is vital to this conversation of what is going on in our country and in our world. In order to come together as a nation, we need first to meet at the place of our common truth: we all – in equal measure – are deeply loved by God. We were all – in equal measure – created by God, in the image of God, to live in community with God and each other. And we all – in equal measure – need God’s deep love to enter into our individual circumstances, stories, and pain. We need that deep love to transform the divisions in our families, neighborhoods, states, and country.
That’s what I’m starting to understand. And I started to think I could just go back to my friends and family members on Facebook and share this message of deep love and feel I had done my part to heal this divide. But then I realized it wouldn’t work if I shared this message with the idea that I was doing them a favor; as if I knew more than they did and was blessing them with my wisdom.
That wouldn’t help. Not even a little bit, since it would only perpetuate the whole us versus them thing.
Instead, I need to see this moment as an opportunity to sit down with one person who disagrees with me; to use that time to listen – really listen – to that person’s stories and pain and hopes and fears. I need to connect. If we can do that well, such listening and connection may even lead to true relationship. And suddenly, before we know it, we will be living out God’s deep love as it was meant: in holy communion that is stronger than – but finds joy and wisdom in – our differences.
And so I will try. I will try to step out of my grief and pain long enough to reach out to someone I disagree with. I will set aside my arguments and need to be validated and I will listen to whatever that person has to say. I will sit long and often enough to forge a true connection. Perhaps, over time, I’ll be able to share my own stories and questions. But either way, I will seek to embody and receive and recognize God’s deep love in this person with whom I disagree.
It’s not much. But it might help even a little bit.
How deep is your love? I really need to know.