I can’t remember being quite so surprised in my life as I was at the election results, but surprise quickly gave way to worry. On Tuesday night I was so worried I couldn’t stand or sit or think or speak, let alone sleep. Worry does that. It keeps you from functioning, from breathing, even, and it can quickly grow and spread until it consumes you. Larry Benfield, Bishop of the Diocese of Arkansas, wrote this on Wednesday, and it pretty well articulates the nature of both my surprise and worry: “It is now apparent that the United States is traveling on a highway that is yet to be mapped. For many of us, the old, familiar guideposts of the Christian ethical life, including peace, patience, kindness, generosity, and self-control, do not seem to be essential markers by which many of this nation’s voters make decisions when electing leaders. It will take some time to discover if one of the markers which Jesus set before us – how we treat the least of those among us – will be a priority or an afterthought.”
I do not want to let my worry consume me, and I refuse to be incapacitated by fear. So for the last three days, in addition to praying for our nation and our newly elected leaders, I’ve been combatting my worry by praying and breathing and remembering what it is that I believe. The word “belief” is from an Old English word that essentially means “that by which you live.” Our belief is that which guides us and orients us and directs us. It is what we live by.
As I’ve remembered what it is that I believe, I’ve been able to remember what it is that I live for, and that has soothed my troubled mind and heart and enabled me to keep on going. I’ve been able to remember that I believe in a boundlessly compassionate Lord, Jesus Christ, and I live by his life and teaching and forgiveness and sacrifice. I believe that I am to love others like he loves, and he never said it would be easy or simple. I believe that the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is the summation of what it means to live as his follower, and how it is that I can live according to the ideals of the Kingdom of God. I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to guide me to eternal light and truth, and the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
This is what I believe. This is what I live by. This is what will continue to root and ground and direct me no matter what. This is what I pray for the strength to confess in word and example. Friends, hold fast to what you believe. Let it be your guidepost through these strange, unmapped days in which we live. Do not let fear or worry shackle you. Testify to what you believe in word and example. And as Jesus says in the gospel for this weekend, “by your endurance, you will gain your souls (Luke 21:5-19).”