Tonight I listened to Ray LaMontagne singing about winter over my wireless speaker as I sauteed chicken in sizzling butter with some white wine and lemon waiting patiently nearby. Feelings of melancholy swept over me like they seem to do for many of us in the stark cold evenings of winter. Even as the rice steamed and the salad was prepared, my mind could not shake the negativity that snaked its way from the screen of my phone into the corners of my soul.
I thought about divisions. Deep lines are drawn in our country, in our families and even in our own conflicted souls. Across social media, friends and strangers are angry and scared, frustrated and crying out. Opinions are stated, rebuttals are added, and the noise of outrage reverberates in our minds and souls for hours on end.
This is nothing new for me, I realize. My heart and mind remember these dividing lines for they are etched deep from the relational divisions of my childhood. Politics and religion were offered a place at our table along with the rib-eye steak and the baked potatoes. Most family gatherings were times of debate, of proving points, of getting louder to be heard, all in the name of “truth”. No one ended up switching sides or coming to mutual conclusions, and the inner spaces of our hearts distanced, while distrust and fear lodged deep.
My stomach still feels the effects from it.
Somehow meekness and humility weren’t guests at our family feasts. I am not sure that they were ever invited. None of us seemed to know how to listen well with curiosity + respect, that a gentle answer turns away wrath, and how to keep love and relationship at the center.
We still don’t know. My family didn’t, and America doesn’t seem to know either.
Somehow Love got lost in those cavernous divides. The fruit of self-righteous discussion ended with broken relationships, years without speaking, and no tools to build bridges over chasms torn wide by our own tongues.
I once asked, “Can we agree to disagree? For the sake of our relationship?” The quick reply was “but let me just say this…” Being heard, no matter the cost, trumped connection.
Who actually won though? What was accomplished? I don’t think anybody did and the accomplishment was wider separation, isolation, hurt.
I mourn tonight. I mourn as the baby of a family who watched all of the older, wiser and respected ones tear each other apart. I see all the arguing and keep wondering what the answers are for holding to our beliefs but with hearts of a servant. Can we speak our views with genuine care and kindness? My Facebook feed is filled with people on both sides of the political fence and that wall is growing higher as we outrage, give in to fear, and either openly or privately disdain the other. Both stamp Jesus’ name on their worldviews, beliefs and heartfelt stances, and I am standing back thoroughly perplexed.
I wonder how we can protest or support with a gentler kind of tone? I wonder if we can use Jesus’ name with greater humility? I wonder how people of difference can come around a table and start a healing way of eating, of conversing, of listening? I wonder if laughter has a place in the seriousness of it all? I wonder how mutual respect as shared Image-bearers can be the placemats that undergird these meals?
All that I know is that my brother died in October, and we hadn’t spoken in a long, long time. The divide in religion, politics and the critical tone of our home drove wedges that were never overcome. To say that there is regret and loss is an understatement. Our hearts grew walls of judgment, hurt, misunderstanding and quiet separation.
We should grieve together that we are losing each other.
Brothers and sisters, arms-crossed, haughty and righteous, losing what we all really desire: the embodiment of grace and love, of washing each other’s feet, of abiding connection despite the deep differences.
My family is mending again. Since that loss, conversations are happening. Texting circles have begun. There is more lightness, more acceptance, more peace. Misunderstandings have gently been made clear. Visits, vacations, and monthly dinners have begun. There is always, always hope for healing and change.
Today, even as I mourn all this country-wide brokenness, I celebrate that every person regardless of political conviction and religious faith are made in His image. All were knit by God in their mother’s womb, and all were died for on the cross. Even the President, even the protestors, even me and you.
May we pray for the peace of our homes, our nation, our world and seek to heal the divides around tables of openness, humility, care, and respect. We don’t have to believe and think the same, but we can always love.