Of Birthdays, Elections, and Hope

Six years ago our youngest son Nils was born. There was snow in the air for the first time that fall as we drove to the hospital early that morning. It was not an easy time in our lives. My position at the Bible camp I worked at had been cut two months earlier. Opportunities for work was slim. We were about to have a second child.

But we had hope. We were in a church community that was praying for us and taking care of us. God was providing for our needs. We knew a job would come along at some point. And we knew that our new-born son was coming into a family that would love him, no matter what.

This past week Americans voted for the president, national and local leaders, and various state laws and constitutional amendments. As with most elections in the past few decades, it was ugly. Mud was slung. Division was clearly more abundant than unity.

In Minnesota were were faced with a marriage amendment which pitted those who don't want the definition of marriage to be change against those who want gays and lesbians to have the same freedoms. We had a voter ID amendment that pitted those that wanted fair, un-fraudulent voting against those who were looking out for the rights of minorities and the elderly. Many felt very strongly about both sides of both amendments. And, I believe, both sides had valid points (the outcome wouldn't have been so close to 50-50 if not). Unfortunately, we didn't look for common ground. Unfortunately, both amendments caused a lot of hurt, as well as a lot of name-calling. As did the presidential election--and every other election on the ballot.

We had months of ugly political ads. And the the election was over. The disunity didn't end. I hated the election results as much as the ads leading up to them...it's either smugness, despair, or naming segments of voters as idiots. Democracy only works if we allow people to vote their conscience with respect that we can differ. It's not easy to acknowledge that if our vote "wins," another person's "lost" and to respect them without rubbing their nose in it. We have become a nation of poor losers and arrogant winners. It seems that for a while we are going to be politically divided, rather than trying to find middle ground where we can all move forward.

In the midst of the election results, I never heard anyone mention Peurto Rico's non-binding resolution to become the 51st state. Many of the islanders want change, and at least a fair number think that becoming more fully involved as a united state, rather than a territory, would be beneficial. I hope they're right.

Nils had his whole birthday party planned out. Crafts, games, activities. He had drawn out an elaborate obstacle course to make in the yard. Then he made a 3-D model of it. He knew what he wanted for his party, and he made it happen. He also knew his friends whom he had invited and made sure it would be fun for them as well.

His world is very different than the world I grew up in. As a white male, he is in the minority in our neighborhood. His teachers are from the Netherlands, Mexico, and Somalia. He is surrounded by the inner city instead of cornfields. The future he grows up in will be different, too. Clearly the political and moral tide will continue to change over time--for good and for bad.

My hope lies not in the election or the political decisions to come. My hope is in my children and their friends. I hope they can do better than we do sometimes. I hope they can work together to find a way to bring equality and justice, righteousness and peace--and to do so while staying true to who they are and to their moral standards. I hope that just as they are able to play together as children that they can work together as adults...male and female, black and white, Christian and non-Christian.

My greatest hope is that Nils will love his Creator and find his purpose in who he was made to be. I know he loves God...I pray that it grows more deeply in him as he grows older. That he may know the Christ who loved everyone, who challenged unjust systems, and who preached repentance as well as forgiveness. That he may live out that love in bold ways.

I love you, my six-year old Nils. And I pray that you may find hope as you grow up as well.

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