(This also appeared in the Faith column of the Sentinel-News in Shelbyville, KY on November 11, 2016)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-5, NIV).
Have you ever woke up and said, “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way?”
At the end of their lives, after having been given the promise of God to produce descendants as numerous as the stars and a promised land of abundance, Abraham and Sarah had a handful of family and no promised land. They must have said with dying gasps, “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.”
When the people of God had been in bondage in Egypt for 400 years under Pharaoh’s lash, they certainly recalled the whispers of that ancient promise and said, “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.”
When the people of Israel had been carried off into Babylonian captivity, longing for home in Zion, they must have lamented, “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.”
When the followers of Jesus saw their Lord nailed to a cross in shame and writhing pain, they must have cried out in disbelief, “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.”
When 300 years of slavery on American soil was replaced almost immediately with Jim Crow segregation and terror, and when 100 years of Jim Crow was replaced by the mass incarceration system which dehumanizes and warehouses the poor and people of color disproportionately against the population, we look at the promise enshrined in our Declaration of Independence of the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And we say, “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.”
And when an unorthodox candidate who violates the command in the Bible repeated hundreds of times to care for the immigrant in our land, to treat them as our own, who suggests that he has the permission to grab young women like my daughters by the genitals and to forcibly kiss them because he is “a star” becomes president of the United States of America, there are some of us (albeit less than half the population, and a very small minority in red Shelby County) who say, “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.”
The morning after the election, my dog ran away. As I was looking for my beagle up and down my street, a lady that lives a few houses down stopped me and yelled at me for passing by slowly in my car several times. She must have been suspicious of a man cruising the street where children are waiting for the bus. I understand. My daughter was one of them. After I told her I was her neighbor, looking for my lost dog, she turned her back and hurriedly got into her car. Five minutes later, she pulled in behind me in the church parking lot and got out of the car in tears, apologizing. She said she had been up all night and was terrified after the election results. I said I was too. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way, but I think I know how we got here. The lesson that morning was perfectly clear. We have forgotten how to be neighbors to each other.
Jesus tells us that we have two principle commands to follow: love God with everything we got and our neighbor as ourselves. All the law hangs from these two. But before we go and do that, we have to know something about the one who gives us those commands to love each other. He was the Light of the World. And that Light has not, will not, can not be overcome by darkness.
Our God has a habit of showing up in precisely the darkest hours. When there was infinite darkness at the beginning of time, God spoke and everything came into being and it was good. When the people were languishing in bondage, almost given up, God heard their cries and liberated the oppressed. When the people were in captivity in Babylon, reckoning with their sin of failure to do justice, God lowered mountains and raised valleys and brought them home. And when the world, in all its evil, imprisoned, tortured, wrongly convicted Jesus and executed him on a cross, when he had been buried in a borrowed tomb for three days and his disciples suspected the Light of the World had gone out, God reached into that tomb and raised him from the grave. And now all of us who follow the Light know to the bottom of our souls that that which this world crucifies, God resurrects for all time.
Maybe Mr. Trump’s presidency will be nothing like the mean-spirited campaign. I am praying for that grace. I am heartbroken, but I’m not angry with my sisters and brothers who are doing the best they can in this thing called life. Even when we disagree on every single political position from top to bottom. Seriously. Jesus made the world safe for us to be neighbors. He is the Light of the World. And I truly want to be a better neighbor to you. That’s the way it’s supposed to happen.