It’s been a long, hot summer and a tough fall. Hot, humid days all the way into October, and heated, hateful days all the way to the election. The tasteless campaigning, the wrangling and back-biting and name-calling, and the unwanted confessions. We’ve been flooded, not only with nature’s wrath, but flooded with uncouth, un-civil words. We have seen the “spirit” of people. We have seen it ourselves, and some of it is hard to digest.
I think we need to “sing one more verse” and invite the entire country to the altar, fall on our knees and ask forgiveness. The whole country is like a battered tomcat, ear torn, nose bleeding, tufts of fur missing. It’s time to stop the eroding of our souls and heal. Our nation needs to come out of the gutter, shake off the layers of nastiness and get to the business of being civil once again. Just being decent is a good thing.
Your spirit, a gift from God, is the sum total of our personality. It is also known as the Holy Spirit, but it’s having a hard time being Holy these days. Motive, desires, thoughts, intentions, decisions, and a lot more make up our spirit. And there are any number of “spirit categories”, and any of these can apply to all of us at times. There is the kind-hearted, unselfish, loving spirit. Another is the “indifferent spirit”, the person who could care less. Then there is mean-spirited spirit who will say and do anything to get what they want, regardless of the “hurt” involved. We have seen a variety of spirits in this election, as well as in ourselves. Meanness can be contagious.
We have come out of the mud-slinging mire before. According to the latest issue of Smithsonian magazine, the election of 1800 devolved into a cut-throat contest. The main characters were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. They called each other nasty names and it was a bloody fight to the finish. The nation survived, and we will, too.
Maybe this is a time for heartfelt prayer. But it’s never enough just to pray. We need to put arms and legs and voices to our prayers. We need to follow up with action to do something constructive to better our situation. An act of kindness here, an encouraging word there, a smile, or a gift to someone who needs it, can each make a difference. This is a good time to claim our civility, our concern for our neighbors, our outreach for people who need help. It’s a good time to go to church or to the synagogue.
It’s also a time to be thankful—thankful that we survived the election; thankful to be alive; thankful that we have another chance to get it right. The Bible overflows with thanksgiving. There are 165 admonitions to thanksgiving in the Holy Scriptures, and another 271 encouragements to praise. That’s more than one for each day. The Bible is so right in calling us to Thanksgiving and praise. Being in partnership with the Living God is a wonderful thing, when we have the courage to do it. I’m sure that I fail at times, but the very fact that I’d like to be in partnership may count for something.
We need to pray for strength to get away from “me-ism”; to be less tribal, clannish and clique-ish. Our nation has been polarized like never before. The only answer is to reach out beyond our self-centered attitudes and yes, to “love your enemies.” The Bible didn’t say that we had to like what other people do, but we need to love people as part of God’s creation. Let’s separate the sin from the sinner and know that the only way to keep from destroying ourselves spiritually is to reach out in the name of a forgiving God.
So many of our soul-destroying conflicts are simple to deal with. The fall into one category or another. Take a piece of paper. Draw a line down the middle, from top to bottom. List on one side: Love. On the other, Hate. On the love side, put all the things that make for peace and harmony, for resolution and agreement, that move us toward loving others. On the hate side, put all the things that make for conflict and hatred. List things that destroy good relations and trustworthiness. Put things that give rise to suspicion, jealousy, opposition and disagreement (ie. All the things that separate us from loving others). Then, think about the situation you are in. Ask, “Where am I in all of this? Do I automatically distrust people that I don’t know? Do I find myself hating someone because of their ideas? Or color? Or religion? Or politics? Have I ever learned how to stop whining, complaining and start doing something I’m proud of to bring peace where I live?” List the characteristics you’d like to have and make a great effort to move in that direction.
When you start being grateful each day for your family, your home, good food, etc., you will find your soul being nourished. Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart and soul. Sing whether you have a good voice or not. Sing hymns and psalms and songs that are uplifting. Sing your heart out. Make a list of things you like about your spouse or closest relationship, then tell him or her one of those things each day. Little things can make a huge difference in good relationships. Tell your kids you love them whether they deserve it or not. Stop resisting what is and deal with the changing situations that we all have. Make friends with yourself. If you don’t make friends with your own spirit, your friends on Facebook won’t do you much good.
Speaking of Facebook, please shun the narcissistic folks who use Twitter to spread their venom about our country. They are starved for notoriety and they do us no good. The internet has gone wild. It may sound corny, but I remember a song that we used to sing in Sunday School:
“When upon life’s living you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged and thinking all is lost,
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
So, it’s time to count our blessings and turn the Holy Spirit loose. Amen.