Do You Really Know?

I’ve often watched this election with the humor of watching a very strange ping pong match where I was cheering for both opponents.  I tended to stay in the middle, and be quite dizzy.  The fact that I agree with people on all sides of the coin says that I think that it’s all quite complicated and most of you are at least a little right.   It also means I think most of you are a little bit wrong, too.  

My ballot goes all over the spectrum.  I don’t see the correct answers leaning in one direction as most others seem to.  I have an unusual way of looking at my ballot, and while in the end each choice is one of thought and logic, I also know that few ballots would look like mine.  I don’t vote one party.  I don’t always vote incumbents back in, even if I have never heard anything particularly negative about their performance.  I don’t always vote for people whose opinions are like mine…..sometimes I think certain groups need people with points of view that balance the group and make sure issues are really discussed before decisions are made.  I have sat in government meetings and been disgusted at the lack of discussion on important issues.  Their minds were made up before they came to the table…..and they didn’t even pretend to listen to the citizens who came to speak, discuss their own opinions in the public forum of the meeting, or explain why they were voting as they were.  Motion up, motion carries.  Motion up, motion denied.  No desire to share their thoughts with their constituents.  I find this to be the height of arrogance and irresponsibility, so I try to vote to try to keep this from happening.  (By the way, if you haven’t sat in at least some of these meetings, shame on you!  Your responsibility does not end at the voting booth.)

I don’t understand the zealots.  I haven’t figured out why some people act like they intimately know some of these politicians and so passionately defend them in all things.  They think they know all of their opinions and how they look at all issues.  They believe they alone have it all figured out and anyone who votes differently than them is misinformed and wrong.  Sometimes they only look at one issue, and think anyone who looks at other issues is missing the point.  Sometimes they look only at the candidate’s professed religion, or their perceived values or ideology.  Sometimes they look at statistics.  In all scenarios, “their” candidate is the righteous one and everyone who believes anything else is wrong.  It all boils down to one “good” candidate and one “evil.”  It seldom reflects the whole truth.

 I received an email from one of my friends recently where she wrote I’m absorbed with the election as well, on the opposite side that you are on…”   

This is a close friend and her statement stunned me.  One thing I know for sure…..she has absolutely no idea what “side” I am on.  To my knowledge we have never discussed politics and if we did, my odd way of looking at things would never be something she could make such a statement about.  We’re wired differently.  I know what I think, but have no clue what “side” I am on…so how could she?  And at the point that she wrote that, I was far away from being in a place where I would make informed voting decisions.  I had only made decisions on a few races.  These I had not shared with her.

Still, she is a close enough friend that if she told someone else what my political views are, her opinion would be given credibility.  She spoke with confidence.  But her opinion of me was wrong (I suspect I know what that opinion is because I do know her political leanings.)  Yes, because she is more of a “straight party” type, we would at times be on opposite “sides.”  But at other times, we would be on the same one.  She can’t conceive that someone votes without much notice of political party.  It reminded me that often we don’t know what we think we know, even about our closest friends. Words spoken with confidence or as facts are not necessarily words of truth.  The perception one has of another is not necessarily the reality.

I’ve learned through time that possibly I don’t really know anyone well.   I think perhaps it is arrogance or naivete when you think that you do.  There have been people I have known for a lifetime who have stunningly surprised me with their actions.  I thought I knew who they were, to their very depths.  I would have stood up for them to the death and said certain things would never be true.  But then I find it is true, and I can not deny it.  I had to change who they were in my mind.  There were inconsistencies in their character that were foreign to me.  They were not who I thought they were, in fact they were in many cases not who they thought themselves to be.  For some it was a temporary lapse, and they faced their flaws and made changes, but some haven’t.  Some will grow and change for the better, some will stay the same, some will regress to places of darkness.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can still love people whose lives I don’t understand and sometimes don’t respect.  In fact, I can still love them beyond measure.  But also I can only know anyone as they reveal themselves to me in truth, either overtly or as is discovered by time and attention.  When I think I have someone totally figured out, I need to roll my eyes at myselfI probably don’t.  We are a peculiar people.  We are a people whose very cells are regenerating every single day.  What makes us presume that we all live consistently by what we say we believe or that we come in only two flavors?  And what makes us presume that because it was one way yesterday, it is the same today?
I guess the point of all of this rambling is, remember that politicians are human beings.  All of our friends, our family members, they are human beings.  They are flawed.  We see parts of who they are, but not all of who they are.  You hear words come from their mouths that may not be their words, their true thoughts.  They spout opinions that may not be their own opinions, but those opinions that they think you want to hear (or with the more contrary, that you don’t want to hear.)  They make promises they may intend to keep, and often they keep them.  But sometimes they find they are not able to keep the promise due to forces outside their control, or they may find keeping that promise is not the right thing to do when they examine the reality of the situation.  And they may make promises they never, ever intended to keep, but said they would because it got them what they wanted at the time.  We need to see real people, not an idealized version of them, and that requires we watch people critically.  And that we remember that real people have both gifts and flaws.  The gifts should not cover them with gold and the flaws should not usually give them a life sentence.

One election does not make or break our country.  We, the people, are far from where we need to be, and a polarized nation will not get us to where we ought to be.  We need to respect our leaders, but also respect each other.  And we need to be leaders….in our families, in our communities, in our world.  Good leaders listen.  They observe.  They change their minds.  They care about their people.  They also both humble and mortal.  They may be good, but they are not perfect.

God is at the center of how I voted today.  I tried to stay focused on Him in the midst of all of the junk and seek His desires.  As I said before, I suspect my ballot will not completely match others who I know…..both those who serve God, and those who do not.  I serve a big God, and I learn more about who He is and who He is not every day.  Still it is arrogance to presume I know it all, and it is arrogance to believe that I know how God would vote.  But it is also arrogance to suggest that we control the elections.  While we see the outside, God knows the innermost beings behind the caricatures that many politicians have become.  Could God possibly lead you to vote for someone who does not win?   Could God’s reasons for allowing someone into office be different than our own?  Could it possibly be that God’s plan is for some of His people to vote different ways?  We are at different places in our lives, different places in our faith, and we have been given different purposes in this world.   My God is a “one size fits all” God, serving a varied and unique group of “fearfully and wonderfully made” people.  We shouldn’t put each other in a box, nor box in God.  He is too big to fit and when we try we miss some of His greatness.

Whatever the result of the election, we will see God at work.  In fact, we have a lifetime to watch Him at work in our life, in our country, in our world.  If we really believe in Him, we can trust His power and trust the future.  There is no need to fear. It’s going to be OK.  Watch, listen and learn.  And know your place.  Be a slave, not the master.  But also be the beloved child, confident in the care of a loving God.  Your vote mattered.  But only so much.  God’s plans supercede.  And that means His ultimate best for you. 

 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.  Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.  Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.  I Peter 2:13-17

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