In a desire to be transparent and vulnerable, I have two things to confess. One: tonight at 9:50 p.m., I ate an entire box of cheesy pasta – you know, the cheap fake stuff. The entire thing. It’s approximately three servings. This was the week that I was supposed to be eating well and exercising and becoming a better person. Instead, I inhaled that entire pot full of caloric carbohydrates in about fifteen minutes. Health fail.
I tell you that to cushion this next confession (I can’t see how you knowing about my gluttony will make you judge me less, but it’s worth a shot). Here it is:
I didn’t vote in the 2008 presidential election. I’m sorry if this bothers you, but it doesn’t really bother me all that much.
It’s strange that the whole voting issue has come to me having a strong desire to abstain. As a kid, I LOVED to vote. I loved the idea of it, the philosophy of it, the action of it. I always wanted to vote on the playground to find out what game we should play, because it was the most democratic way and everyone got a say. And I voted in every school election, even up through high school when those running were the ditsiest and most idiotic. My vote mattered, and I didn’t want a student body president who was only chosen for her long blonde hair and her pelvic thrust (she was on dance team! mind out of the gutter!). Well, the next assembly, without fail, she was giving her acceptance speech despite my vote for her opponent, but hey, at least I gave it a shot.
As a kid, I was a big history buff (before AP history sucked the enjoyment away). I loved reading about our nation’s history, the wars and the valor, even the pain and the suffering. It helped me understand the story of the land, how it was burned and bruised and stolen. I loved hearing the stories of presidents and their choices, good or bad. I didn’t care too much for the politics – the stories of the people were what caught my attention. And I adored every woman who stood up and gave me the chance to sign my name on a ballot and say my piece.
I was so excited to vote for president, to be part of history books and wikipedia entries. I mean, as a 12 year old, I voted in the kids’ mock election, choosing the next president. Obviously, I chose Jesus’s candidate, good ole Bush himself. But it was all fake, and I couldn’t wait for it to be real. I calculated it out. Unfortunately, I turned 18 in 2005, so I had to wait three whole years to vote. Also unfortunately, that was my little brother’s first eligible presidential election as well, which was a big deal and sorely unfair when I was twelve and he was nine. Luckily, my entire family left me and moved to Canada when I was 18, so I had the last laugh (obviously, a story for another time).
Another very distinctive attribute of me, besides my ability to get incredibly excited about boring things, is my extreme indecisiveness. My friends force me to choose where to eat dinner out of a desire to “help me grow,” which can be translated as a desire to make me suffer. One of my greatest gifts is the ability to see a situation or issue from multiple angles at the same time. It helps me to sympathize – it also paralyzes me and makes decisions nearly impossible.
When I got that election ballot in 2008, the one with the nominations for the presidency, I was paralyzed. The motion was easy enough; grasping a pen between the index finger and thumb, a back and forth motion with the pen’s tip on the paper inside a printed box would release the ink, causing the box to be filled in and thus placing my vote.
I had tried to become informed so that I would make a good decision, but the more I looked, the more confused I became. So many people saying so many different things. He did that, he didn’t do that, he said this one time. Who was to be believed? As someone who greatly respects the power of the word – both written and spoken – I knew that someone or many someones were misusing words to lie about another, defaming his name and his abilities. I just didn’t know who.
In looking at the candidates themselves, I was torn. I didn’t fully agree with either of them. At the same time, I partially agreed with both of them. Each candidate raised some great points and had some great ideas (also, which I knew would probably not ever come true). And each candidate stood squarely across the line from my own opinions on certain key issues. What was I to do?
Along with that internal tumult, I was getting fed up with advertising and individuals appealing to my spirituality as a reason to vote for one or the other. It’s frustrating when my Jesus is tied to a certain candidate – or party – and my faith is in question if I vote a certain way. My faith background is conservative, my faith (college) education is liberal, and I’m pretty sure folks on both sides are going to be hanging around Jesus’ feet once we get to the land beyond.
I’m seeing more and more that politics is a very difficult career path for true Christ-followers. The ways of life don’t seem to piece together very easily. I suppose the same could be said about nearly every profession, but politics isn’t a place to be authentic. It isn’t a place to hold fast to your stances. It isn’t a place to promote absolute Truth. It’s a place to hold up a mask while making compromises.
Do not get me wrong. I am not making a statement about any candidates who are in office or seeking it. I know some very good men who are in office who I believe love Jesus deeply. I also know the turmoil they go through to be a Christ-follower in the government. It’s a hard job, a hard world to exist within. And it’s very little like Jesus’ commands.
That’s why I did not vote for the presidency. I couldn’t decide who I wanted to run this country more. I couldn’t even decide who I wanted to run this country less. So I didn’t vote. I feel like I voted on some other issues, maybe a commissioner or something, but I left the box for president blank, sealed it, signed the envelope, and dropped it off at the post office. The next day, I smiled at the pictures of Americans crying with joy as Obama thanked the crowd, excitement lighting his face. And went on with my day.
Now, two years later, another ballot arrived at my door. I fully ignored it for days, until November 1st. I sat down, looked at it, then shoved it under some books. But it was still there. I grabbed it, opened it, looked at the boxes, then shoved it away, out of sight again. Sitting in silence, I thought about my civic duty, how this was a beautiful right, how those suffragettes had sacrificed so I could speak my mind. The problem was, as always, I didn’t know what my mind was saying.
I wanted to just throw it away, ignore Frank Grum and Chris Dudley and all of those other white men. But something in me said, no. Formulate some opinions and stick to them, based on your own heart and the Jesus inside of you. So I did some research online, wincing at the mudslinging. I only voted for about half of the people/issues that were on the ballot. But I feel pretty good about that half.
I believe, as a Christ-follower, that Jesus can redeem anything. Even this crazy, sad, messed-up country. Even this broken, hollow, crying world. So I give my vote, say my piece, and let Jesus guide my own actions: act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with him in every season of life.
Well, the actual walking can wait, I hope. I’m a little too full of pasta to be going very far.