My Field of Hope
Last Thursday was fascinating. I had a wonderful lingering lunch with a good friend. Among other things, we talked about the mea culpa article in last week’s New Yorker written by Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal. It made me think of my own days not speaking out on LGBTQ issues.
On the way home I heard NPR report the news the NBA had made the decision, because of HB2, to move the 2017 All Star game out of North Carolina. It feels good to be affirmed by the NBA. Then I had a three-hour dinner with a new friend who has become very dear to me. We talked about our mutual experience of working desperately to deny what we knew to be true. Our denial was based in love, but with time we found a deeper way to love, albeit with the necessity of passing through great pain. The evening brought laughter, tears and joy.
Our evening was briefly interrupted by a synchronistic moment when I saw, recognized, and introduced myself to the son of a friend from California. I had never met the son, but I instantly recognized his picture from social media. His mother had been in touch with me this past week, reaffirming her commitment to our long-term friendship, though my transition has been difficult for her to navigate. Her son seemed delightful. I was not surprised.
Tired, but full of love, I went home and had my spirit dashed as I watched portions of Trump’s endless speech, tribal fear-mongering at its worst. I thought, “Has our country really come to this?” Before I went to bed I checked social media and saw someone had commented on a picture of me preaching at my church. I clicked on the comment, which turned out to be a brief critical remark about a friend’s decision to “like” the picture. It hurt. I try to protect myself from such bigotry, but at least once each week something sneaks through condemning me for being…well…me.
So there it was, all in one day, love and acceptance, fear and rejection, laughter and joy, hatred and dismissal. These are the conditions of life, and they have always been with us. If you were an Irish-Catholic American in the 1850s, you were terrified of the hatred of the Know-Nothing Party. Yet if you were an abolitionist in the same decade, you knew you were about to bring down slavery. Hatred and judgment are always with us, but so is what my lunch friend calls “a field of hope.”
My field of hope is that we are better than the xenophobia we saw in Cleveland. We are better than the flippant chiding of a friend’s supportive “like.” We are capable of moving past our fear to what is good and fair and redemptive. We are able to move beyond what we think is love to a deeper, more honest and sustainable love. We are able to trust in the slow work of God, even when it deposits us in seasons of great pain. We are able to acknowledge the log in our own eye before we start spouting off about specks in the eye of another. On our better days we are capable of living like Jesus, and we are capable of increasing our number of better days.
I hold no illusions about the divisive spirit ripping through our nation. I experience its vitriol on a weekly basis. But I refuse to lose my field of hope. We can embrace uncomfortable love. We can believe in outrageous reconciliation. We can trust in the slow work of God.
And so it goes.