Struggle by Rev. Charlie Dupree
Today is Election Day.
What to say on a day of election? I’ll first turn to one of our Assisting Bishops in the Diocese of Virginia, the Rt. Reverend Jennifer Brooke-Davidson:
What will we do if. . . if the outcome is not what we hope (and in our big tent, different people hope for very different things)? What will we do if . . . if “the other side” doesn’t accept whatever it is? What will we do if . . . if people behave badly – very badly? What will we do if . . . if the “victors” are cruel to the “defeated,” or vice versa?
As a bishop in The Episcopal Church writing to my sibling Episcopalians, I would offer my own answer. Whatever unfolds, what I will do first is remember who I am, and who each other person in this crazy mess is. I am a child of God, a follower of Jesus. So are you. And so are “those people.”
There’s a prayer in our prayer book on page 824:
O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I realize that in our nation, in the broader church, even at St. Paul’s, there are people who come from many different backgrounds, represent different perspectives, and have different feelings about all of the topics that the nation and the church is currently engaging. Some may feel that the church is moving too quickly. Some may feel that the church is moving too slowly. Some are saying, “Wait!” Others are saying, “What are you waiting for?”
Is struggle an ingredient in community? Can struggle contain an aspect of holiness? I think the answer to both questions is “yes.”
I’ll never forget a statement that a young parishioner at a former parish once told me. “I knew this church was the church for me,” they said, “because I knew that here, it was safe to struggle.” Life’s questions and choices are tough, especially now. In these times, we’re all struggling with something, some more than others. We’re juggling a lot, just trying to keep it all together. So, if you’re keeping it all together, let me be the first to say, “Good job!” And, when you aren’t able to keep it all together, when you fall apart, let me also be the one to say, “It’s OK. You don’t have to hold everything together all the time.” It’s OK to say, “I’m struggling.”
We need safe places to struggle. Note that, according to the prayer above, struggling does not include being hurtful. We are NOT called to be violent or bitter or hateful. Struggle can happen in healthy ways. This is why I have always loved the Episcopal Church: we can struggle together and trust that in the midst of the struggle, God will bring about something holy, even if it’s only the intention to love each other through it. As Jesus loved us even in His most glorious struggle, so Love must stay at the center of our struggles.
God never promised God’s people a journey without struggle. The Biblical narrative is filled with it. Do not forget, though, that the narrative – our narrative – is more and especially filled with God’s promise, in Jesus and the movement of the Holy Spirit, to be present with us even unto the end of the ages. This promise includes today, tomorrow, and every day after that.
One final prayer from J. Philip Newell . . .
As I utter these prayers with my mouth, O God, in my soul may I feel your presence.
The knee that is stiff, O Healer, make pliant.
The heart that is hard, make warm beneath your wing.
The wound that is giving me pain, O best of healers, make whole.
And may my hopes and fears find a listening place with you.
This day and always, remember who you are . . . a beautiful person who is known and loved by God.
May peace settle into our hearts, our lives, our world,