I wore black the day after the election. Black pants, black tank top, black blazer. I wore my darkest lipstick. I didn’t know what else to do. I had a class to go to. We met in the youth detention center. I had things to do, and people to see, and Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited to discuss. But I also desperately needed to mourn. I desperately needed to show on the outside the despair on the inside. I woke up in a foreign land, one I thought I knew but no longer recognized.
I don’t know that the darkness has lifted for me. I wake up in a start a lot. I have been having a lot of trouble sleeping, (especially if I don’t limit my Facebook scrolling). I never really know what is coming next. Sometimes it is the thing that breaks my heart, but often it is the reaction by a church I feel I no longer know. I thought you taught me to love my neighbor. I thought you wanted me to make big sacrifices for God. It is like coming back to my childhood home only to find not just the furniture re-arranged, but also the walls.
I have been invited to more Facebook groups than I can count. Women of the Resistance, Georgia Blues, Ten things in Ten days. I see them. They are all doing good work. I want to do that work. I want to flip my county and resist, and do ten things in ten days. I want to be a part of the change I need to see in this world. I want for things to be different. But mostly, I scroll through my Facebook feed and feel afraid. I think about how there are other things to do, make dinner, write my paper, go to a protest, call my senator…again. I could paint post cards and sell them and donate the profits to the ACLU or the Refugee Relief Fund or even to the social worker at my girl’s school. We need shoes, and snacks, and paper. I should do all of those things. Instead I sit on the couch frozen until my kids remind me that they are hungry. I pull the bag of chicken nuggets out of the freezer and pre-heat the oven. I decide that and an orange is good enough for all of us. Again.
I sit in the back of the church scrolling through my social media feeds. I know this is sort of rude and inappropriate but I can feel myself coming unglued and I do not want to break apart in the back pew. Again. I get a text from my friend. She is about to go to the front and tell us about the work she has been doing. Can I record her? I hold my phone and watch her explain to the congregation about answering a post on social media from her bed. Yes, she could take her youngest to an apartment complex and tutor a woman who has come to America as a refugee. Yes. She could do that. I laugh with her as she explains her anxieties, how she is terrible at small talk, but they don’t speak the same language so that is a non-issue, how kids and moms are the same in some ways across all cultures, how saying the same word over and over again becomes ridiculous no matter the cultural barriers. I watch her and there is just a flicker of hope inside of me. I don’t need my screen because this knowledge grounds me: This thing matters. Going to a woman’s house and teaching her the words for her groceries matters. My friend is doing the work of the Lord, every day she goes into that house, and also right now, her testimony does holy work in my heart.
I sit on the couch of a friend who has moved to the opposite corner of the country than me. It is a rare thing to find a couple whom you adore in equal parts. We have managed to maintain our friendship despite the distance. We are talking about the contrast in the messages we grew up with in our evangelical youth groups. We are talking about the ways we feel abandoned in the adult versions of a belief that we were given as teens. Do you think it is because we were too fast or too slow? he asks. Neither of us are people who are used to not understanding. I drink some wine and think. Both? I respond. We were fast in understanding the implications of that message, maybe better than they did. We were slow in the ways we believed that they believed what they were telling us as surely as we did. Now we are drinking wine together, silently, wondering what land our faith has left us in.
I was taught to look for my Esther moment, for my such a time as this. And I feel like I am in a foreign land, and I am shocked by the cruel and unjust decisions of my leader, and I wonder if God has abandoned us because of our hard hearts. Where is Moses leading us out of this mess? Where is Esther, born to subvert the king she sits next to? Where are the prophets doing weird life as performance art in the name of God? I know these things are supposed to have 5 parts, but this story isn’t over.
I ask these questions moments before I get into a car with someone I have known since 22 to meet with women I have only ever met on the internet. I come wandering, wondering, empty. I come to meet with women who mostly feel the same way. One by one they stand up and say the things they are doing, are feeling, are called to. Each one isn’t a whole lot, until it is. Until you have had your head held by a woman who spent a whole year learning to be present, until you get an eye brow raise and a ‘let’s try it’ from a woman who has spent years learning to say yes her dream, until you get thanked for following your calling to seminary by a woman saved your faith so many times you lost count. These things that you felt in your hands don’t matter, in other people’s hands it is broken open, like manna from heaven, like fish and bread. Maybe all you have is so small that you want to just go back to bed. Maybe you do it anyway. Maybe it is enough.