I had a sudden realization, somewhere in the three city blocks between the Burgerville and the McDonald’s. The sobs came unexpectedly and from somewhere deep in my stomach. And it was because of a white envelope sitting on my coffee table.
I had just attended a morning church service that struck me to the core. My pastor spoke on the sanctity of life, but he took the difficult road instead of the easy company line. Instead of simply reiterating the pro-life platform, he firmly and gently validated the lives of all human beings, including the unborn and their trapped mothers.
But that wasn’t why as the windshield wipers beat out a steady rhythm, I began to cry, harder than I had in months. I don’t cry often but when I do, it’s because my heart is broken.
My tears were partly for dead babies and scared mothers. For mothers who crave babies and can’t have them. For grandparents who raise their grandchildren by working multiple jobs. For men on death row who wait to die. And for those overseas and in our cities who live by the mantra “kill or be killed,” because they can’t see another option.
But my tears were mostly due to the fact that on my coffee table sat an unopened white envelope with white pieces of paper inside and empty boxes on those pieces of paper, boxes that wait for me to make a decision. A decision that will change the world, but will not save it.
I’ve documented my strained relationship with voting. I’ve written about my childhood love of participating in democracy, both on the playground and in the classroom. As I grew, I started seeing the world in grayscale instead of black and white. The injustices were more prominent, the excesses more evident, and the manipulations more blatant. I did not vote in the 2008 presidential election, because I could not decide.
In 2012, I felt like I must. I must engage, I must participate, I must do my civic duty. I must choose the best candidate. I just couldn’t find him.
I cried because I so badly wanted to vote but I could not cast a vote that would save this world. There was no candidate who will save all the babies and the mothers and those without hope. A political party will not save us from the terrible things we have done or watched or ignored.
Only Jesus will.
To be honest, I cried even harder knowing that Jesus is the only one who can save the world, and sometimes he doesn’t seem like he’s doing anything. It’d be easier to show this world a human being and say, “Here is your Messiah.” Here is the one, with flesh and bones to hug and kiss, who will save us.
But our world’s problems transcend our flesh and bones, because your flesh and bones say something different than mine. Your flesh holds the land I feel mine has been promised. Your bones hate mine because mine killed your child’s. Your essence is in conflict with mine in every way.
This is not a problem that can be solved by a vote, because in a vote, there are always two sides. Every four years, there is a winner, a loser, and a large percentage of folks who promise to move to Canada if the horse they’re backing loses. (News flash: Canada doesn’t want disgruntled Americans)
That’s why the Quaker church doesn’t vote on a new budget or whether to finally buy a new church van. Instead, they decide things by consensus. Meaning, everyone quietly and deliberately waits on the Spirit of God and they eventually all come to agreement.
Consensus is probably not feasible for choosing the next Commander in Chief of the United States. But here’s a thought.
I don’t know what you think about Jesus. But can we be in consensus about the state of this world? Can we admit to ourselves and others that this world is sinking slowly into despair, confusion, and suffering? And can we tell ourselves that we are part of the problem? That it’s not the Republicans ruining the world, or the Democrats, or the Canadians, or the Kardashians?
Let’s own our tears for this pain-stricken world and then say to others, “I may not know how to help you yet, but let’s cry together for a while, while we wait on the only one who can help.” And can we move from this election season, full of mudslinging and hatred, bile and anger, into a season of Advent? Preparing our hearts for love and service, and a little fella wrapped in cloth and lying in a hay bed?
I voted, finally. But I knew whose job it is to save this world. Trust me. It’s not Romney, or Obama, or any other name on a ballot. It’s my hands, and yours, with Jesus’ love.
It’s not the easy answer, but it’s the most true.