Writing a book often elicits unexpected comments. One of my recent books is entitled THE MYSTIC IN YOU: DISCOVERING A GOD-FILLED WORLD. I realize that’s a big claim, that everyone has a mystic sense. Folks I know protest, “Me, a mystic? I don’t spend a lot of time praying and haven’t had any dramatic encounters with God. Religion isn’t even that important to me.” I always agree with such confessions, but then add, based on my own theological perspective, that God is quietly moving in their lives, whether or not they are aware of it. There is a mystic inside you, perhaps deep down in your unconscious, ready to come forth when you’re are ready or when you least expect it!
Sometimes mystics emerge after years of spiritual practices, such as meditation and prayer. Others have unexpected and unsought mystical experiences that just “happen” through the machinations, gentle and non-coercive, of divine providence. Sometimes without any preparation, we begin to look for God, feel a stirring toward wholeness, or experience a deeper guidance and then follow.
Mystical experiences require no necessary prerequisites on our part. The Apostle Paul experiences Jesus on the road to Damascus to arrest members of the Jesus movement. Isaiah encounters the Holy One, dramatically revealed, when he is searching for solace in a time of national crisis. Dag Hammarskjold says “yes” to an unidentifiable voice and awakens to a guidance, calm, and purpose.
Given my belief in the universality of revelation and the possibility that all people can experience the Holy, despite their past or current ethical or spiritual orientations, I shouldn’t have been surprised when a couple Facebook friends asked various forms of the following questions: “Do you think God loves Donald Trump? Do you love Donald Trump? If you believe there’s a mystic hidden in everyone do you think he might ever experience God first-hand as a personal life-changing reality?” In other words, is there a mystic in Donald Trump?
Life is complicated and we are often mysteries to ourselves. I suspect that even Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama have blind spots. The adventure of life involves growth in experiences and self-awareness. I recognize that I cannot faithfully comment on someone’s inner life or God’s presence in their lives, but my FB friends challenged me to think “Donald Trump, could he become a mystic?” My friends know that I am critical of Donald Trump’s policies, character, and divisive tactics. Yet, though I disagree with him, I believe God loves him -and me, too – and I am obligated to pray for him. Love and prayer do not require agreement with another, they do challenge us to see the Holy in the other.
Could the mystic in Donald Trump spring forth, a surprise to us as well as him? The answer has to be “yes.” I believe that God is omnipresent and omni-active. Wherever we are, God is present in gentle, mostly non-coercive, and subtle ways. The whole earth, as Isaiah discovers, is full of God’s glory. Omnipresence is all or nothing. There is no such thing as being “a little” omnipresent. So?If God is present in our world, then God must be present and providentially working in Donald Trump’s life. God has not given up on Trump, or us for that matter. And with that affirmation comes the possibility of repentance, transformation, and reformation with or without conditions. No one can program or predict God’s movements in our or another person’s lives. Perhaps someday Donald Trump will leave the security of his Trump-owned properties and discover God in the faces of persons of color, immigrants, or everyday people. He may hear the cries of God in the voices of persons experiencing homelessness and in the trauma of children separated from their parents on our borderlands. Perhaps, someday Donald Trump will set aside tweeting and gaze at the stars, transfixed and exclaim “how great thou art!”
Now, as we ponder Donald Trump’s qualifications for a mystical encounter, we must not forget that we face the same challenges. Sometimes we feel any meaningful experience of God is beyond us. There are times we need to be driven to our knees, trusting God’s graceful interdependence and unmerited grace. We need to let go of the prisons we have created and let our spirits soar. We need move out of our comfort zones to see the world as others see it.
We need to transcend our prejudice and see holiness even in Donald Trump. Maybe we may, despite our legitimate objections to his behavior and policies, learn to pray for Donald Trump and recognize beneath the bloviation a sibling in Christ.
The world is saved one person at a time, and one moment at a time, and it is good to pray for Donald Trump’s healing and wholeness along with our own. This is not a political act, and requires no endorsement of his policies; it is an act of graceful interdependence. There is no privilege in the Spirit, just the journeys of fallible souls. We need to let God guide our prayers, praying only that Donald Trump – and every leader, right or left – experience the vision of Christ in his life and let this guide his leadership and relationships. In the meantime, let us look for the Christ in Donald Trump as we honor God in the “least of these” and in our own struggles to do the right thing
Bruce Epperly is a Cape Cod pastor, seminary professor, and author of over forty five books, including “The Mystic in You: Discovering a God Filled World,” “Becoming Fire: Spiritual Practices for Global Christians,” “The Gospel According to Winnie the Pooh,” and four volumes of an ongoing series of short books on process theology: “Process and Ministry,” “Process Spirituality: Practicing Holy Adventure,” and “Process Theology: Embracing Adventure with God,” and “Process Theology and Celtic Wisdom.”