Let me share some snapshots of my week. On Election Day, I spent the entire day in the courthouse to support a victim of sexual assault as this person testified against the perpetrator; it was as awful as you imagine it to be. I put my crying daughter to bed that evening, who was scared of what a Trump presidency would mean for her Muslim schoolmate. I wept all Wednesday morning not from surprise that Trump won, but because I knew that people were going to be attacked in the coming days. I spent the rest of the week listening to stories from friends—of a black brother who was unjustly shot by police, of gay couples worried about losing their rights, of undocumented immigrants fearing deportation and separation from their young children, of countless people who because of their skin color or head covering being verbally and physically assaulted, and on and on and on. It’s not anything new, but the intensity has certainly ramped up in the aftermath of the election of a person who has threatened these different groups of people.
“Where is God in all of this?” That is the question being asked by those who are deeply hurting right now. Unfortunately, too many people are offering bad answers that deny our grief, pain, and outrage. I write this letter for the people in the Pres House community who are in despair and fear because on Wednesday morning you woke up knowing that the world became more dangerous for you. We have a long road ahead of us which may feel overwhelming. Here are some things I encourage you to do because it is important that we protect our hearts from being hardened even as we continue to cry out for justice:
1. Share your stories in safe spaces. Isolation makes everything feel worse and can lead one into despair. We need to remind each other that we are not alone. Dare to tell your story, bear witness to others’ stories, and hold one another tenderly. This is one way we remember God is with us as we stand together.
2. Take frequent breaks—from social media, from the news, from this event. What we are in for requires perseverance for the long haul so you must take care of yourself. The racism, sexism, violence and xenophobia did not suddenly appear Wednesday morning, its seeds were planted well before the birth of our nation. Resisting this is a lifelong journey, so it’s important to rest along the way.
3. Practice joy. This isn’t a denial of the very dark circumstances we are in, joy is a Christian practice that recognizes God’s grace even in those times. Eat good food, play with your dog, create art, laugh with friends, enjoy the small things in life (remember that the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in the midst of some serious trauma). Doing these things is an act of resistance in the face of injustice.
4. Realize God is calling you. We are being called to be braver, more courageous, and scandalously loving than we are able to on our own human strength. The hope we have is not that everything will be okay in the short term—the reality is, things will likely get worse. But we are a people of hope, a people whose spiritual ancestors faced incredibly difficult circumstances by trusting in God’s love (how do you think Civil Rights protesters resisted the hate of their violent oppressors?). Following Jesus is not about easy answers or the promise of a safe life—it means we don’t run away from those who need help, from injustice, from evil. We stand firm to face it, fight it, and let God use our whole lives to bring transformation in our world.
5. God is with us. Trusting in God does not mean we are protected from harm, it means that God will be with us, especially in the darkest valleys. We need each other to remember this, and so it is important to encourage each other as a faith community. Our hope is rooted in the promise that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). No matter what happens, God is with us.
In these challenging times, we walk by faith but we do not walk alone. I love you, sisters and brothers, and I am here for you and need you too. Let us walk this road together.
Grace and Peace,