Monday, August 17, 2020

The Things that Form You

 I think that, in order for this to really make sense, you have to know two things about me.

First, I think you need to know that I didn't grow up in the church. God was a choice I made as a teenager, but I attended a youth group where the other kids all felt like they had. -- Or at least that's how it seemed to me. One of the things they did was participate in the Bible Bowl at the North American Christian Convention. Those study sessions always secretly felt like I was batting from behind. I didn't know the Bible stories that they had all learned in Sunday school and VBS for years. I felt like I was trying to pass Trigonometry, while never letting on that I'd never learned multiplication.

I guess I just felt like I wasn't sure how to be a believer. So, like a child looking to her parents and teachers, I looked to the people who could be my mentors over the years about how I should be. What does being a Believer look like in real life? What does it look like in school? At work? As I got older, it became questions about how I should be a wife, how I should be a friend and a daughter and a sister and a mother. How does one balance being a Believer and a citizen? How does one take the teachings of Jesus and translate them into how I should vote, how I should work, how I should shop and drive and order McDonalds? All of those questions, and those mentors became really important to me. They were instrumental in the person I would become.

The second thing that I think you need to know is that I came of age during the Clinton era, and I think that's important. I couldn't tell you how I voted in his 2nd election -- but I can tell you what I remember. I have vague memories of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but I have even more vivid memories of the arguments that the believers in my life gave the most stringently. They all sounded a little different, but they more or less all boiled down to this: Character matters. It matters. And character matters in our national leaders even more. 

And that made biblical sense to me. James talks about the harsher judgments that come with being a teacher -- and it made sense to me that similar expectations would be extended to those in governmental power -- that we should strive to vote into power those of good character. That idea nestled in my heart and felt like something I could trust to be a guiding principle in my civic life. And it has been! Because even if we weren't necessarily on the same page in matters of policy, I felt I could trust that person to make wise decisions where wise decisions were needed.

And now we're here where we are.  If I'm really honest with you, I struggle. I struggle to understand why character suddenly doesn't matter anymore, and why that should no longer be the driving factor -- or even A factor. I struggle to understand why the ends suddenly justify the means if the ends are what I want. Even if the character is really really really really really bad.

I haven't really known how to talk about it until now. Maybe I still don't. I have felt this bitterness in my heart every time I've thought about it, but I couldn't ever quite find the words to describe why. But, I think I'm beginning to understand that bitterness. It isn't about policy or politics -- but perhaps much more about trust. It feels more like betrayal that hits me deep in my soul. Like all those mentors who I counted on to teach me how I should be... they didn't really believe what they said they did -- and it makes everything between then and now feel very hollow. I don't really see that I can do much about that -- it is just what it is.

Except this. Because I can't leave a blog like that. I am the same age NOW as some of those mentors were when I first started looking to them -- even older than some of them.  And I can take that seriously, and not give those who look to me reason to pause in disappointment years down the road because I didn't really believe what I told them I did.