I have been pondering for over a week now so many reflections resulting from the public discourse of recent current events. Being in a new appointment and not being sure if people can separate spiritual and moral conversation from political it is tricky choosing my words. However, being a woman listening to some of the discourse and not reacting has been so very difficult given my instinctual reactionary tendencies. Feeling the heaviness in my heart as I watched the pain and fearful discomfort of Dr. Blasey-Ford and the anger and frustration of Judge Kavanaugh discuss intimately personal details of their life was painful for me.
What I will say loud and clear is that it takes courage for a victim of sexual assault and abuse to speak their stories and I have listened to my share of women for whom this was their reality and most were never able to tell their truth for fear of the consequences from those around them. This is real. This is not an assault on young men everywhere. It is an unusual season in which women’s voices are being heard in ways they haven’t been historically. Please, let us be people of empathy and compassion that recognize there are so many voices and experiences that have not been heard through the years because of power structures and dominance by fear and dismissal. I am sure there are women and even some men in your very circles of life and influence that have stories they have not been able to share because they are unsure if it is safe space.
But that’s not what I really want to focus on today. I have been checking my own emotional temperature this past week and I do not like how it has been rising with the volume of the political and emotional rhetoric around me. So I have been thinking about how best to personally respond to this for my own spiritual and emotional health. This week has brought me a series of quotes that I believe begin to form a theme. In the battle to determine who is right and who is wrong in a “he said”, “she said”, “I believe her”, “I believe him” ping-pong public dialogue, I finally realized I had to step back and turn the volume down around me. I know what I believe. I know what I long to hear for in our public leaders. I know ultimately what is right and wrong morally in the choices we make. But I also know that at any given time, I could be wrong.
Interestingly enough our theme for this coming Sunday is on humility as part of creating healing connections within our relationships with others. A church member sent me a reminder of a quote from Augustine that resonated with my reflections for this blog.
“If you ask me what is the essential thing in the religion and discipline of Jesus Christ, I shall reply: first, humility; second, humility; and third, humility.” (cited from Augustine’s Letters 118)
When we dial down our own volume a bit and approach things from a place of humility, we are in a much better place to hear and be heard, I believe. As a reminder, humility as Christ and the early church understood it was not a sense of being a doormat groveling before God or others. Instead Dr. Roberta Bondi talks about it more as our ability to accept our limitations, imperfections and vulnerabilities while also accepting that we are valuable in God’s eyes. We don’t have to prove our accomplishments and earn high status in God’s or society’s eyes in order to have self-worth. With that in mind, we realize it’s not about perfection – our own or someone else’s. We are all struggling to work life out. I don’t know exactly what this means for Blasey Ford or for Kavanaugh and our political leaders, but I only have control over myself. This helps me better make sense of what I am feeling, thinking and the choices I am able to make.
But the unsettled way I have been feeling this week has concerned me. What if I digress to the level of some of the anger and rancor I have been listening to and make poor choices in my own actions and reactions to all of this? What if I let it create a dark cloud over my heart that slowly but surely starts calcifying? Then I stumbled across this powerful quote that reminded me of a defense that I have at my fingertips. One of the Desert Fathers from the early Christian times shared this teaching.
The nature of water is soft, that of stone is hard; but if a bottle is hung about the stone, allowing the water to fall drop by drop, it wears away the stone. So it is with the word of God; it is soft and our heart is hard, but the [one] who hears the word of God often, opens his[or her] heart to the fear of God.” Abba John from Sayings
Abba John’s point is that the constant trickle of Jesus over my life slowly and consistently reminds me that love is the most important thing. That God commanded us to love God and love neighbor. If we do those two things, the rest falls into place. When I feel anger – even righteous anger which is not necessarily a bad thing, I will not let it turn my heart to stone but will let the powerful life-giving water shape and mold me. And when the rhetoric gets too loud, I must turn the volume down.
One of our staff members led devotions this week and he helped us think about changing the channel internally so the background noise in our life can be God’s Word and teachings. If we let that Living Water drip constantly over our lives then we hopefully have enough stored up within to make this doable.
“The reason you can proclaim the Word is because you have it stored up within you. It is the background noise of your life. When the trials come you can just turn up the volume.” -Crawford Loritts
While I am craving to turn down the volume of the negative, hurtful, loud and often dismissive voices of our current times, I am reminded that if I change the channel, I can turn up the volume of the love of Christ internally. I can sing to the top of my lungs, as I have been known to do in my car, a song of love that overcomes hatred. I recently started a trial of satellite radio for a few months and finally set my stations from the hundreds of choices. It is pure joy to sing the songs of the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s while dialing down the talk radio, news and noise that I realized was weighing heavy on my spirit. Through my daily devotion and Scripture reading, I can increase the volume of the best voices in my life and protect my heart and my spirit from this storm that is raging around me.
I hope that if you are feeling the weight of the rhetoric that you, too, can turn the volume down and let the Living Water drip a consistent reminder of our loving Jesus into your life. And that Jesus can remind us all how we should be caring for and treating one another- quite simply with humility and love.
Grace and Peace,
PS. For those who were at church on Sunday, “I am brave enough to…” write this blog!