Here is something I didn't see coming: I didn't anticipate what it would be like to admit publicly I had been sexually assaulted in the context of a larger national conversation on the subject, and then have friends and family vote for an admitted sexual assaulter.
I knew, of course, that it would happen. But I didn't know what it would do to my heart.
I didn't expect that it would feel like dementors circled me and sucked all hope out of the air in the early morning hours of November 9. (Yes, I know that dementors aren't real. But sometimes it feels like they are.)
I didn't know that I would feel betrayed by my people, the white American evangelicals, 81% of whom voted for an admitted sexual assaulter (among other things; and God Almighty, what a long, terrible list of other things!)
I didn't know that the voice so recently returned to me would scream for hiding and protection and safety again in the wake of the election; to sit out the next four years safely and silently here in Canada, ignoring what is happening in the country of my birth and around the world.
I didn't know silence would be so tempting after finding the courage to speak. How could I?
But now I know. And I have faced and rejected the temptation to quiet down and go away.
I have faced and rejected (thought failing sometimes) the temptation to simply keep the peace and ignore what remains troubling and disturbing about this New (i.e. Very Old) World in which we live. A world in which naming misogyny and xenophobia and racism is treated as whining, and denouncing those things earns one the title of "poor loser." A world in which riots are rightly denounced while attacks in and on churches and schools and human beings are minimized or ignored.
I have faced and rejected the temptation to give into the safety of despair and turn away from noisy, irritating, painful hope.
No. It is in hope that I want to live. It is in hope, and its twin sisters, faith and love that I, as a person of faith, am called to live. And in this new season of knowing that all is not well, hope will continue to require work on my part and on all of our parts.
Hope requires turning away from the temptation to despair and cowardice. Hope requires turning away from the temptation to demean and withdraw from those who voted differently than me, especially those who share my faith. It is hope, not optimism, that is necessary in these days. Hope, not cheery naivetè must remain the oxygen of the brokenhearted and the inspiration of the weary.
As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes, "Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the belief that, if we work hard enough, we can make things better. Between them lies all the difference in the world. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It needs no courage, only a certain naiveté, to be an optimist. It needs a great deal of courage to have hope."
Well then, may God give me courage, for I. Will. Live. In. HOPE.
In hope, I will work for a future that is just, not the savage now that elevates the rights of those of a particular skin colour, orientation, religion or gender. I will speak when that future clearly remains to be realized. And I will rejoice when it seems to break through.
In hope, I will live into a Kingdom where it is the poor and the mourning and the broken who are declared blessed instead of reviled as losers and whiners. I will speak when that Kingdom is rejected for a kingdom of the mighty being right because of their might. And I will celebrate when that Kingdom advances in peaceful victory.
In hope, I will live into a Kingdom of grace and mercy and humility and love, where, as Mother Mary sang, "God casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly."
In hope, I will reach out my hand out in friendship to those who disagree with me, even though it may be slapped away or spit upon. (God help me. God help us all. That is the part I dread most.)
And I will screw up sometimes. I will fail at love and I will give up hope and then grasp it again. And I'll probably irritate people (no, definitely will! Kadee, shut up already about Donald Trump!). And I'll probably be a Debbie Downer or, I flatter myself, Gandalf Stormcrow (no, definitely will!) and get muted or blocked or ignored, even by people I love and people who love me.
But thank God, so much of what used to keep me silent--the agony I put myself through because of what others think of me and my words--has been crucified and buried. And may it lie dead, amen and amen.
I expect to be hurt, and I expect to be ignored. And I expect myself to tell the truth anyhow.
Because hope. And only hope.
A blessing for you, and for me:
Be brave, beloved:
Use the voices God has given you to speak the truth, and to speak it in love.
Live courageously in hope, clinging to faith tinged by hope,
And I will do the same, with His help.