“Do not worry about your life.”
Who said that rubbish? It’s the day after the election, I’ve hardly felt more anxious. I asked six people today how they feel and they all said worried, or anxious. That seems to be the common denominator today, “One Nation, Under Worry.” This week I’ve wanted nothing more than to take a big nap and wake up three days after Tuesday. Instead I hardly slept.
“Can any of you add a single hour to your life by worrying?”
Perhaps not, but what about through binging season 2 of my favorite show (Longmire, BTW)? Of course I know better, escape is not the answer to worry. But it does make me feel better for an hour. The problems are too many and big to wrap our souls around. In the face of such a cultural and psychological storm denial isn’t a political statement, its survival. We just can’t cope.
Author and psychologist Mary Pipher even talks about MTSD, Mid Traumatic Stress Disorder, acknowledging that our society is collectively living in the midst of constant trauma. But that may not even be the worst of it. She says, “As a species we are engaged in suicidal behavior that we cannot even discuss.”
The opposite is to go all in and place all bets on democracy – which, if you think about it, is belief in the sanity of our neighbors. Everything depends on it. Everything depends on us. So get out and vote early and often, then be prepared to lick your wounds and sing Kumbaya.
“You of little faith! Why do you worry?”
I’ll tell you why I worry. I worry about my kids’ futures not being better than our past. I’m worried for those specifically named as deserving a less-than status: immigrants, women, queer folk, black lives. I’m worried the church’s reputation will receive a knock-out blow; or that it already has. These desperate crises don’t have an easy answer or obvious scapegoat; but they do twist us psychologically.
OK, I wasn’t very authentic with you there. I told you a couple of things on a long list I’m worried about; but I didn’t tell you why I worry. To do that I’ve got to dig deeper into myself, not in to my culture.
Why do I worry? I worry because I don’t have the resources I need to adequately cope with my profound reality of alienation. My emotions, faith, and culture aren’t resilient enough to move me from trauma to hopeful action. Yet.
That’s not me wearing my slobbery mid-life emotions all over my red white and blue sleeves. “Alienation” is a term shared by theologians, psychologists, and scientists that describes the human condition today. We are – until we aren’t – all alienated from ourselves, God, and others. We’re all children of Eve and Adam after they ate that damned fruit: feeling naked and ashamed for the first time, hiding from God, blaming others. No one needed to kick me out of that garden; I ran from it of my own free will.
And there it is, a kind of Short-Theory-of-Almost-Everything, including why I worry. It’s not just that I am alienated from self, God, and others – it’s that I’ve chosen to live that way. And worry is as innate to that lifestyle as corporate financing is to democracy.
“It is the Gentiles who strive for these things.”
Yep. I have met the enemy and it is I. (Hold on friends, we’ll get to the part about hope).
If I believed in original sin I’d probably say that’s got to be it, a belief in separateness. ‘Us’ against ‘Them.’ Right versus left. Citizens not migrants. Black lives or cop lives? Your President is not my President. God above creation. It is everywhere. And it’s all crap.
Problem is I can’t help myself, and I’m not alone. Even Paul said “For I do the things I hate, and that which I want to do I cannot do.”
“Do not worry about tomorrow. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Yep, nailed it. One day at a time. When public trauma hollows you out it’s imperative to take a day to grieve. But then what? What kind of person would I have to become to not worry about tomorrow?
Whole-hearted people, non-anxious people have three things going for them. They are those with a profound sense of who they are, are deeply connected to a specific community of people, and have a shared mission.
In other words:
- Whole-hearted people disbelieve the lie of separateness.
- Non-anxious people have overcome the experience of alienation.
- Those who move past worry get in to action.
All of us have work to do. None of us live in a united country; none of us live in neighborhoods that are flourishing as they can; none of us live in a world without war; none of us are 100% supportive of President-elect Trump.
“Strive more than anything else for God’s kingdom and God’s justice. If you do, everything else will be given as well.”
That’s the mandate folks. Not putting our hope in government or free markets. Anabaptist Christians have never believed an ideal super-state is the solution. Nor is our hope in passive prayer. As I say in my book The Gospel Next Door:
God is not keen on finger-snapping miracles or waving a magic fix-it wand… Instead of miracles and messages, God shows up in an even more surprising way: us. We are the evangelists invited to stoke the hope that God’s restoring justice can come to Houston as it is in heaven.
Black theologian Howard Thurman said it like this: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Our hope is in the kingdom and those who strive for it. Our hope is not in princes, but in people who will courageously protect the poor and pushed out. Our hope is not in Caesar, but citizens committed to the common good shalom of our cities.
Friends, the gospel of peace has survived Constantine and the Crusades. It has survived the Doctrine of discovery and Dacau, It has survived the Inquisition and the bomb of Nagasaki. It has survived the Bush wars and the Obama Presidency. It has survived the open carry of guns and the open hatred of outsiders.
Why do you think this is so? It has survived our worst because it is God’s best.
And it will survive this too. Because we will strive for it.
So who was it who said all those rubbish statements above about not worrying? The same man who said we’d be unshakable if only we’d do what he asked. (Matthew 6:25-34, 7:24-27)
There is much work to be done. I will find out what it is. And I will do it.
This is my faith.
This is my hope.