The Rise of Hope: The Challenge of Fear

“The arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I have found myself in a number of discussions about the two narratives in our current political debate. Some have described it as the difference between a narrative of hope and a narrative of fear. I’ve had to think long and hard about these narratives in the past few weeks.  I came home from a short two day trip to an unexpected conversation. I decided to take my youngest daughter for a trip to get a smoothie. I had missed her immensely more than usual on this very short trip and I wanted to take some extra time to connect. She has always had high emotional intelligence and a deep calling to justice in the world around her. I was a amazed on this particular day with what was stirring her heart.

She had three big topics of discussion on her mind: Alton Sterling, Syria and the elections. My youngest daughter is 10! I was a little amazed at the hour long conversation that followed. What she shared was filled with commentary on these complex issues and it was laced with questions to me that allowed her to reality check. Reality checking is leaning into another person to test your thinking. You ask, “Am I crazy?” “Does this make sense?” without asking it directly. She also knows I work on these issues and wondered how close I was to danger. “Mom, will you have to go to Syria.” She was relieved to hear I would not have to go.

In that hour, my 10 year old challenged political narratives, advocated for refugee support and expressed her own concerns and hopes for race relations in this country. It was a powerful hour of doing more listening than talking. Since that time, I’ve realized the challenge of fear in the midst of hope. In the weeks that followed the conversation, there was a slight change in my daughter’s behavior. She was having trouble sleeping at night and consistently asking if the alarm was set before going to bed. Her world has become less secure and more scary. We are still working through it and understanding it.

Fear challenges us with a question and gains control over us with the answer it suggests. The question, “What can you do?” How does a 10 year old with a heart for justice respond to Alton Sterling, Syria and the elections?

I’ve found she is not alone. I’ve had adults say they’ve found themselves more fearful in the wake of the latest events. Here is what I have learned in my observations and conversations. Fear takes hold and challenges our hope when we feel overwhelmed, powerless and out of control. Fear says, you can’t do anything. This is too much and you have too little. In fact, it goes on to say, who knows what will happen next?

I’m attempting to help my daughter with these underlying thoughts by being practical about what we can do and relying on God through prayer. I’ve had to take a quote to heart that I heard a long time ago. It went something like…. Books don’t tell kids monsters are real. Kids know monsters are real. Books tell them monsters can be defeated. My daughter knows and we all know bad things happen. Hope comes in believing we can walk through the things that happen and overcome them with time. We have to believe the long arc bends toward justice.

As I consider the political narratives, setting my political preferences aside, one narrative pushes us towards hope in the saving power of our better nature together. While the other, pushes us towards belief in the saving power of some of us from the rest of us. In the end, both narratives point towards a path to better and/or greater. One states things are bad and the other states things can be better. As a mom and as Christian, my recent experiences cause me to look at both narratives with a fine tooth comb. One is certainly more appealing. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which one, but neither reflect my sense of the world completely.

This reality won’t stop me from voting. It will cause me to hold fast to what I believe is true in this season while being responsible with my vote. I believe in the saving power of God, which I do believe makes us better together. We can’t save ourselves alone and we really can’t depend on a self-identified elite group to save us.
It seems like a paradox, but I’m compelled to the right action and perspective by relying on God as opposed to deferring to God. When we defer to God, we shrug off the issues and challenges we see, abdicating our responsibility. Relying on God propels me forward and empowers action. I hope it will do the same for my daughter. I hope it will do the same for you.

May we all pray! “Lord, what does better or greater mean to you? What is my role? May I have the will to make it so.”

“My hope is in you.” Psalm 39:7b

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