Thursday, October 30, 2008

I don't like politics, but I do love my country. So since we're only a few days out, I feel inclined to say a small bit.

I remember the 2000 election like it was yesterday...you know, the one where Al Gore won the popular vote but George W won the Electoral vote and the chads in Florida made the thing stretch on for days. I remember how hard I had prayed (fasted even) over that election. It was going to be the "big" one. Our country was headed down an evil path and the right man in office was going to make all the difference. I remember a lot about that evening. The kids were in bed. Steve was out of town. I was drawing quilt designs (not something I've ever done before or since...wierd). And I was reading the Bible and praying and watching Tom Brokaw on NBC. I remember I kept coming across the verses about King Cyrus in Isaiah and thinking it odd. Cyrus was the King of Persia while the Isrealites were in captivity and though he was not a Yaweh follower, he was the leader chosen by God to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and send many of God's captives home again. He was a pagan ruler. And I tell you what, he got God's will done ...because God decided he would.
I like Isaiah 44:28. (God is talking...asking rhetorical questions about himself)
"who says of Cyrus, 'He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please;"

God calling a pagan king His shepherd...the same humble moniker given to His dear king David. Our God's ways are so disconcerting sometimes aren't they? David and Cyrus in the same category? Well, I remember thinking that maybe God would put the apparent "wrong" man in office just to show His people that the heart of the king is in his hands. It was just a thought. The "right" man was elected that year, at least according to the Christians in my circles. I remember feeling relieved that our "prayers had been answered". But here's the thing, 8 years have come and gone since then and if I look at the things my leader and country have accomplished in that time, I'm not very proud.

I hang in different circles now...nothing intentional, just the way life and relationships flow. I read different books. I read a really great story about a man who gives his life and fortunes to build schools in Afghanistan (Three Cups of Tea is a fantastic read, btw) and our wars look different from his angle. I read about a Jesus follower, a pacifist who went to Iraq to be with God's people there who were being bombed by us...brothers and sisters in Christ. The war looks different when you hear their stories too. (Irresistable Revolution is a book that makes me laugh and cry and hope...really hope!) Just the other day I stumbled across an article in Time magazine that was evaluating the recent bailout. Isn't it like $7 billion or trillion (numbers too big to understand or remember). The article gave a whole list of what other sorts of things could be done with that money...things like giving every individual $2400 or buying the 17th largest country in the world or...and this is the one that got me, pay off 7% of our national debt. Seriously? Only 7%. So our national debt alone is higher than the value of most every country in the world. Seriously. This is what we do when God gives us the "right" leader? I know...it's not just him, not just now, of course. But the truth is, I'm not seeing anything changing for the better. I'm not seeing us make any more Godly choices than we did with our previous overtly immoral president.

I don't like either of my choices for our new president this go-round, but I plan to vote God's values as closely as I can. I think if you are His, you ought to do that too. But since I hang in different circles and am more widely read now, I think that many of the people I love may be able to make a perfectly sound argument about why the "other" candidate makes a closer fit to God's values than mine. I'm good with that. I believe in a sovereign God who holds the heart of the king in His hand even if said king doesn't realize it. And I love my friends too much to make what so easily become contentious arguements over such nonsense.

I think we should pray, of course. But not long and feverishly like I've done in the past because Jesus specifically instructed, "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words." (I've totally done that). I think we should pray simply, "Lord, let your Kingdom come and your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven." And then trust that is just what He'll do...in His time, in His way.

But there's something I think is way more important than either of those things, and here's where I'm going to get controversial and maybe fire a few folks up.
Because, you see, I think God doesn't care all that much who gets elected. At least...he doesn't care the way we think he does. Yeah. I said that. (cringe)
I think it's just another day for Him, and that He may even have much more important meetings and events going on that same day

Here's why I think that. There's one other thing that I remember crystal clear about that election night in November of 2000, and looking back from here, I sort of think it mattered more to God than anything going on in politics and power brokering that night. That was the night he introduced me to Isaiah 58, a chapter in His beautiful book that has become my life's mission. I didn't know it then, but it would change everything. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, loose the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free, break yokes, provide the poor wanderer with shelter, rebuild the ancient ruins, Repair the Broken Walls.

See, I started looking for and finding ways to do those things, and I don't really think anymore that God concerns himself very much with people in power. They are simply his tools, mere pawns really. I've come to understand that his real attention is on the poor, the hungry, the misused and abused, the suffering, the broken hearted and humble, and that those folks exist in every socio-economic and political atmosphere. Isaiah isn't the only place you'll find this idea. It's the overriding theme woven all throughout scripture from beginning to end. It was the way Jesus defined His own mission on the earth, and it was what he spent His time doing. Take a look. And I've learned that when I put my hand to helping the marginalized and destitute, knowing and praying God's will comes pretty easy. Doing His will ends up being surprisingly easy and joyful too.

I'm glad that there are people who are passionate about the election and seeing God's will done in that arena, because I really love it when people get passionate about things (and I've many friends who are passionate about that). So that's great. But what I really long for is the day when this many of God's people get that fired up about sitting with prostitutes, talking with theives, feeding hungry folks, wiping away tears, easing suffering. That will be a big day for me.
And that will be "THE" big day for our country. That I know for sure.


Darleen said...

Ah Jen...Only you can put it together so beautifully! That is exactly it...press on and run the race with endurance :)

Bo said...


And also? The money spent on the bailout would have given almost $5,000 to every orphan in the world - and that amount of money would buy a whole lot of hope for a kid who has none. But in spite of that, I still wouldn't want the government to be the answer to that problem...then we would depend on them to meet the needs of the fatherless and we would have nothing to do but try to fix the government. Ew.

Love your blog - so glad to have found it!

Jen said...

Dar...thanks for thinking so. i luv you!

Bo... wow. The $5000 orphan thing, I mean. I agree with you though. I want to get to be the one to help the orphans! I haven't had a chance to check out your Amani site yet, but I'm interested indeed.
You're a beautiful heart!