My states of mind and heart about our country have flip-flopped all over the place in the past few weeks. The map below is an outpouring of words describing the states I have entered. Many of the words are negative and despairing; but poking through are positive words of hope and joy. I am not a proponent of the adage: “You can have either faith or fear, but not both.” Conflicting words like fear & trust and joy & sorrow live in my mind, heart, and body all at the same time. I can straddle several states in just a matter of minutes.
Drawing this map was both a cathartic purge and a blessing prayer.* I am so weary of words and opinions and judgments—even ones I agree with, even my own. I am so quick to form a response to whatever I hear based on some knee-jerk outrage or some closely-held belief. Words can be helpful, encouraging, and transforming but they can also be a form of assault and violence. If my words do not agree with yours, we can immediately be at an internal or external verbal war, judging the intelligence and character of the other person.
I look at my own categorizing and am appalled. I grew up as a Christian Scientist. Christian Science taught me that everyone is created in “the image and likeness of God.” (Genesis 1:26) When I came home from elementary school and said something like, “I hate Susie” Or “Bob is a big liar,” my mother would say, “You know, Sybil, you need to fix your thinking. Susie is a perfect child of God and you need to see her as that.” Then we would pray. What would happen when I changed my assessment of the person from a liar to a child of God was nothing short of a miracle. I’m not sure whether the person changed or I changed. But the atmosphere changed. Maybe the atoms of the universe surrounding us changed by my moment of loving. God was clearly present however that happened.
I notice how infrequently I now start with the “child of God” premise especially when I read the news or consider the political arena. I am much more likely to start with judgment and criticism. Frankly, it’s eroding my soul. The violence I condemn becomes part of my psyche.
I would like to say that from now on I will always start with seeing others as children of God, that I will never be “the first to throw a stone,” but that is not true. My plan is much smaller. For the next hour anytime I hear or read something that oversimplifies the state of our country or that lures me to some sort of get-on-the-bandwagon or blow-it-apart response, I’m going to try to just listen. I will invite the polarizing rhetoric inside of me to be still. I will recite “image of God, image of God…” as many times as needed, then wait on some “Good Orderly Direction.”** I will try this one hour at a time and be grateful for any minutes of success. I want to do this, not just because it feels like a holy or righteous thing, but because my heartsick soul feels like it is in jeopardy. I do not want “to become what I hate.” I know I cannot do this alone. I need accountability to other people in my life and to God.
*The blessing prayer on the outside of the map is a format I use frequently. It is adapted from an ancient Celtic prayer.
**Good Orderly Direction = GOD