Well, it happened again. The election was too close to call before we went to sleep. Even those who stayed up all night did not have the satisfaction of results. Now, we must wait until votes are counted, certified, and posted. When things are close, there are bound to be recounts and challenges.
By the time you read this article, days from its writing, we may be no closer to knowing who won. Even if we do, we will still be a little numb in a post-election aftermath. After all, these are challenging times filled with uncertainty and confusion. No matter how healthy I feel or convinced that my political choices are correct, I must face the reality that things are beyond my control.
On election evening, a friend of mine texted me, "Waiting for election results is like waiting for a grade on a group project. I know I did my part right. But I'm scared y'all messed it up."
The same could also be said about the pandemic. Why can’t people just see these things the way they ought to be seen? Self-righteousness makes us impatient with those holding differing views. We want resolution according to our way. Such attitudes only make the situation worse, heightening anxiety. This is rarely good. Anxieties threaten to overwhelm and immobilize.
In the face of anxiety, I have found it helpful to stop and take a deep breath. At first, the breath is a bit ragged. I breathe again, repeating the process until the flow of air into and out of my body is smooth.
I have come to understand this calming strategy as a silent prayer. Without speaking, I am welcoming a life-giving presence into my being. In the Bible, the Hebrew (ruah) and Greek (pneuma) words for breath are the same for the spirit. At the beginning of creation, God breathed life into the first human. A part of God's life remains within all people.
Taking a deep breath, I recognize God's presence in the very core of my body. It fills me with delight and a sense of peace. No matter what might swirl around me, I find courage in this calm.
I have been offering a lot of breathing prayers during this election season and the pandemic. In addition to these contemplative prayers, as a Christian, I find strength in my faith's core values. I look to the teachings and life of Jesus and find compassion, kindness and humility.
Throughout the stories in the gospels, Jesus demonstrates all three in his interactions with others. Compassion undergirds his work of healing and reconciliation. Jesus's heart goes out to the crowds, who search for connection with God. He loves them in not only words but also through acts of hospitality and kindness. Even the ones who were labeled "ungodly" and discarded by the holy people of the time find themselves included in Jesus's vision of God's kingdom. Humility describes the emptying sacrifice that characterizes Jesus's ministry. Jesus served, putting others' needs ahead of his own.
The values of humility, kindness and compassion are outward focused. They move in the direction that builds community, linking lives together for mutual benefit. We are stronger and smarter together than we will ever be apart. Companionship generates courage and confidence. There is something joyful when we discover that we don't have to go alone. Life is a richer experience when we recognize that our differences open possibilities that we couldn't imagine ourselves.
Regardless of who wins the electoral joust, our divided nation needs healing and reconciliation. We need to find common ground and work together for the common good. The spiritual values of compassion, kindness and humility offer a path in this direction. How might we embrace such things in our families and community that we might shine some hope as we patiently wait?