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Posts Tagged ‘the election’

There are two things (we’re told) we should never talk about.  Religion and politics.  That’s difficult… and silly.

A few days ago, two women and I – standing in a very public place – avoided the “safe” topics found in the pages of People magazine to enter into dialogue about the election and matters of faith.  I don’t know either of these women very well, but I believe that when we are attentive to facial expressions and body language, we can usually recognize another person’s willingness (or unwillingness) to dialogue.  Experience proves to me that a great many people are hungry to talk about issues of faith and life, but they need an invitation to speak whatever might be on their mind or hidden in their heart.

Dialogue is sadly becoming a lost art.  Perhaps we feel ourselves ill-equipped to speak about what may be emotional topics.  Perhaps we’re afraid of conflict.  But, it’s o.k. to disagree.  Two people who don’t agree on something can learn from one another during the polite exchange of thoughts and ideas.  If we keep silent and don’t speak about controversial issues of life from the Biblical perspective, we might miss the opportunity to comfort a hurting soul… to share a word of hope… to point to forgiveness and healing.

We need to break the silence and, with a caring and careful manner, talk about abortion, cohabitation, same-gender “marriage,” health care and, yes, the election.  That’s what happened quite unexpectedly in a public store with two women I’ll call Ellen and Diane.

I know Ellen only because of family connections.  I know Diane because she is a supporter of the pregnancy center where I volunteer.   At a recent fundraiser for our center, Diane told me she didn’t think she could vote this year, “neither for a Mormon,” she said, “nor for Obama.”  That comment stayed with me so, after greeting her in the store, I took the opportunity to tell her that I’d been giving some thought to what she had said about not voting.  I asked her if she had ever considered that Thomas Jefferson, while not a believer in the deity of Jesus Christ, was nonetheless a defender of religious freedom and encourager of virtuous people.  Diane admitted this might be applicable to this year’s election.

“It seems to me,” I said, “that we should vote for the man who will keep us the farthest from the edge of the cliff.”

At that moment, Ellen leaned in to the conversation.  She smiled at me, then said to Diane, “Linda should be out speaking!”

That was an invitation to continue the conversation.  With the invitation, however, also came a memory.  A faint memory of Ellen’s past.  After high school, Ellen left home in search of something different from the life of her parents.  There were some rough years.  I don’t know specifics.  But, this memory prompted me to respond to Ellen.

“I am a speaker,” I said.  “I’ve been a pro-life speaker for a long time.”  But, I explained to Ellen, “it was only when I became a listener that I really learned.”  Often, in a hallway or the restroom after my presentation, women would approach me, wanting to confess their abortion.   The pain in their voices, I told Ellen, compelled me to dig beneath the symptoms of promiscuity and abortion to the real problem.

“We’re in spiritual battle, Ellen.  It seems to me that Satan and our Savior both desire our attention, but what they have in store for us is very, very different.  Trusting ourselves, we are deceived and bound for trouble.  Satan offers no comfort when we fall.  But, even after our sin and in the midst of consequences, Jesus stands close with arms open wide.”

Ellen’s eyes never wandered from mine.  Her cheeks were moist.  I suspicioned that she was thinking about her own life.

“We all have a story,” I said.  “We all have a story.”

At that point, we needed to go our separate ways.  Ellen and Diane went to one part of the store for coffee, I to another.  Within a half hour, one of my closest friends walked in the door.  Jane was in town to visit her mom.  We had not planned to meet, but apparently God had a different idea.  “Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” I asked.  We settled into chairs at a table across the room from Ellen and Diane who were enjoying their time together.  When they got up to leave, Diane and I waved to one another.  Then she headed for her car.

Ellen, however, approached our table.  “That conversation we had mattered,” she said.  “This afternoon has been good.”

She kept looking at Jane.  “There’s something familiar about you.  Do I know you from high school?”

Jane looked surprised.  “Oh, my goodness,” she said.  “We graduated the same year, didn’t we… but that was a long time ago.”

Ellen pressed on.  “Weren’t you in a serious car accident?  I remember reading about it in our class reunion book.”

“I was,” Jane said, “and God sent mighty angels to protect me that day.”  She gave a few details.  Then paused.  Ellen could have excused herself and said good-bye.  But, she didn’t.   This was another invitation.

“Ellen,” I said, “the fact that Jane is here with us today is God’s amazing grace, but she has another story to tell… a powerful story of Christ’s work in her life.  She doesn’t tell this particular story publicly, but . . .”

At this point, Jane interrupted.  “No, I don’t tell my story, but I’ve given Linda permission to tell it.”

“And it’s so important that I do,” I continued.  “It’s after I share Jane’s story that other women are more willing to come up to me and share their own stories.  They tell me they feel more welcomed and less alone and vulnerable.  Jane’s story is one of hope.  It reminds others of how patient God really is and that He never turns His back on us.  We may walk away from Him, but our Father never abandons us.”

“There is so much fear,” Jane spoke up.  “It can be overpowering.”

“It is,” Ellen agreed.  “It is overpowering.”

“I’ve come to believe,” I added, “that every one of our wrong choices is made out of fear… fear of being out of control or unloved or insignificant.”

It was long past time for Ellen to go be with her family, but she lingered.  She seemed to be searching for words.  “I came home to visit my parents, but never would I have imagined meeting up with the two of you or having a conversation like this.”

Ellen continued.  “Do you know what this afternoon has meant to me?  I’ve been close to losing my faith . . . I was told by my parents that my life and the lives of my children have been difficult because it’s punishment for the sins of my youth, but you have reminded me that God doesn’t work that way.”

No, He doesn’t.  “There are consequences of our choices – good or bad,” I said, “but rather than punishing you, it seems that God is staying the course with you.”

Jane nodded and said, “I thank God every day that He never lets go.”

Ellen hugged Jane.  Then me.  “Thank you.  Thank you for this visit.  For the honesty.  What a difference this has made for me.”

Jesus makes the difference.  Jesus – the very Word of Life – speaks to every important issue of our day.  Trusting Him, we can dare to break the silence.  Ellen was hungry to hear someone speak to the concerns she has about our nation.  Even more, she was hungry to get personal… to hear someone remind her that sins of the past may affect our lives, but do not have to bind us.  Newness of life in Christ is real.  We are forgiven and set free to start our lives over.

What do you think?  If we who claim to know the Lord of life are afraid to dialogue in the public square about issues of life, what will happen?  What won’t happen?

We may not want to make waves, but what about a ripple here and there?

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