I am in a contemplative mood this morning. We have been exchanging text greetings with the family and friends. It is a good feeling to love and be loved. It is a grey day outside, cool but not terribly cold, and that often puts me in a reflective mode. With my rearranged office (a number of months ago) I can look out my window while working at my desk into the neighbor’s and our backyards through the tree stand to the houses on the other side of the woods. There is a texture to the clouds that is soft and even comforting in its greyness, with just the barest touch of green left on a few of the bushes and the odd evergreen in the mix of the tree stand running behind the house. I even like the straight lines of the black metal fences framing the lower part of my view. I am grateful for this house and this space that is mine within it.
Recently I have been much exercised over the public conversation here in the United States of America. The level of rancor and dismissal of the “other” is seemingly as great as I have ever known in my lifetime. President Trump (for the next two months anyway) is the lightening rod around which it is all focused. But he is just a focal point for a much deeper public disconnect and jangling disharmony. In the last two weeks I have had encounters with people whom I deeply love and just as deeply respect representing both sides of this divide. On the one side is the belief that President Trump is a raving narcissist who has put our country on the brink of a demagogic disaster. On the other are those who genuinely believe he has been maligned by “establishment” liberalism and has been an incredible gift to this country. My angst, and it is almost as extreme, is the absolutism of both sides. Have we lost the ability to listen to the “other” looking for value rather than cause for dismissal.
I have complained that I don’t know where to turn to find truth. And, I am coming to the conclusion that is a cop out on my part. I have not been willing to invest the time to sort through all the noise to find the consistent notes embedded in that noise. They are there. Do I care enough to search them out, or have I succumbed to the same spirit of absolutism in the guise of, “I can’t find the truth because everything I hear is so biased.”
As a follower of Jesus Christ I believe I have a relationship with the One Who said, “I am the Way, I am the Truth, and I am the Life.” If I genuinely believe that then I also believe that truth will resonate with me through the power of the Holy Spirit. Humility requires me to recognize that I, along with everyone else, see and interpret that truth through the lens of my own experience and predisposed thinking. That said, humility does not require uncertainty. It does require holding certainty open handedly. So that I can say based on what I know this is what I believe and given more data I may change my point of view. Yet, for now, this is where I stand.
So, where do I stand on this Thanksgiving Day in 2020 as the smells of our little feast permeate the house? (Little because COVID forced us to forgo a larger family gathering.) I choose to believe and assume positive intent from those with whom I disagree. I choose to believe that those with whom I agree have experiences and predisposed thinking that influence those beliefs. I choose to listen to try to understand and find the value in thoughts that run counter to my own. I believe the overwhelming majority of Americans want good for others. I am thankful for this country of my birth. I fully recognize it has a dark side, as do I, but that doesn’t invalidate its good. I will engage the public conversation with the belief that others are searching for truth and longing for it as much as do I.
As I wrote to my family this morning, “Happy Thanksgiving. May we focus on the wonder of our blessings while working toward Peace on Earth and Good Will towards all.”
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