As a conservative working in a profession overrun by progressives, I confess that in the weeks running up to today's election, I had experienced moments filled with despair. Some of that came from a sense of isolation among those I work with, some family members, and even my church.
Today, I am still sweating out the election, but something has happened that has changed me, made me calmer.
I was recently asked to serve as a deacon at my Baptist church. After a bit of hesitation—where would I find the time?—I agreed. I've been worried that I wasn't doing enough for the kingdom of God. I'm getting older, and I think it's time I did more. I truly believe what the old hymn says: only the things you do for God will last. So when my pastor asked, I figured it was God's offer of an opportunity to serve him as I should. So I had to say yes.
Gonna be quite a time sink. Three-hour meeting last Friday night. Ouch. Baptists just don't know how to shut up.
November 4, the first Sunday of the month, was Communion Sunday, with Deacons assisting. Not me, yet. I'm a deacon-in-training, a process that takes a year. In any case, I'm supposed to be focused on the service, on learning my duties as a deacon, on worshiping God.
Instead, I'm obsessing about the election. I keep pulling out my iPhone during the service, looking for any hint of hope that Romney might pull it out. (I actually found some, by the way. I think he's got a fighting chance.) My stomach is in knots. I have to force myself to calm down, listen to the sermon, make it through the rest of the service. Once it's over, I must go with a fellow deacon to the home of a shut-in member and deliver the Eucharist to him and his wife.
It occurs to me that I'm in no condition to minister to anybody. I'm tense, worried, on the knife edge of snapping at anybody who might try to distract me from my obsession.
And I knew that this would not do. It'd be just plain wrong. But I had a duty and had to do it.
I tried to get hold of myself, to take control of my feelings. And as I stood there, surrounded by the deacons with whom I was supposed to minister to my fellow Christians, I realized at least one reason why I was so upset.
I was afraid and ashamed. I didn't want to lose the liking and respect of the other members by admitting to them that I support Romney. Conservatives aren't too thick on the ground in black Baptist churches. I feared that my fellow Christians would despise me if they knew. But I also felt that I was a liar, a fraud, and a coward for not openly stating my beliefs. What kind of man was I?
I think so much of my emotional trauma over the election grows out of my sense of isolation. Among my primary social circle, at church, I feared that my opinions would inspire horror and contempt.
But I had to tell the truth. My first "confession" was to one of the deacons, a smart, admirable man I've known for years. And he replied that it was no big thing, that I had a right to my opinion. I began to explain my reasons. He disagreed. Suddenly we were having a serious but calm, friendly argument.
As we spoke, the church organist walked by. Excited by my own newborn candor, I told him I was a Romney supporter. He glanced over his shoulder. "Oh, everybody knows that," he said. He chuckled and went on about his business. Guess I must have accidentally let something slip in the past months.
But the point is he didn't care. And as I told others, I found that none of them cared. They didn't hate me or disrespect me. They just disagreed with me.
All except my pastor's wife. He's quite liberal; she's a conservative who loves Fox News.
Soon we were having a friendly, fascinating political discussion. It was calm, and cheerful, and fun. And we agreed on quite a bit. Even a law-and-order type like me, for instance, is horrified by the huge numbers of young black men in prison, and I believe that something must be done to reduce the excessively punitive approach to law enforcement. And once people have done their time, I think they should get back their right to vote.
Here's the thing I want to share on this election day, when we are so divided and distrustful of each other: I learned that my fear was entirely in my own head. Nobody hated me or disliked me or despised me for my opinions. They accepted me, without missing a beat.
I might never have learned this if I hadn't answered the call to become a deacon. I now see that this may be central in God's plan to make me into something fit to occupy Heaven.
I'm still nervous and worried about the election. But so much of my fear was about what others think of me. It turns out that I don't really know what others think of me; I'm actually scared of what I think they think. I'm torturing myself with fears and worries rooted entirely inside my skull. I've allowed Satan to camp out in my head and torment me endless with imaginings of my own worthlessness.
I don't know how to stop being this way. I've prayed for years, begging God to take this away from me.
Now, though, I think I figured out why this prayer has gone unanswered. Because the fear remained, and because it would have prevented me from doing my duties as a deacon, I had to confront it and admit it. And in the process I found that I had nothing to fear at all.
I hope I can apply this lesson to the rest of my life, so that I can keep a peaceful, brave, and cheerful heart, regardless of the outcome of the vote.
All the same—Go Romney!
11/5/2012 5:00:00 AM