Why we can't cover our post-election wounds prematurely

November 15th, 2016

On election night, I rinsed plates and loaded the dishwasher. The chore occupied my anxious hands as the electoral map turned red and blue. After Florida proved too close to call my anxiety shot through the roof. Watching the stunned faces on television revealed nobody knew what was unfolding. While the votes poured in, the map turned red and a political earthquake shook.

I sat on the couch staring at the screen. Baffled. My wife sat next to me in silence. Since last Tuesday, I’ve felt confused and overwhelmed with feelings ranging from anger to sadness to disgust. You don’t have to look further than the news headlines to see our country is loaded with post-election emotions. Potent ones. The vitriol lingering from the campaign season cannot be neatly poured back in the bottle. This is our new reality. And to ignore it would be unwise.

My therapist friend, Lewis, explains why we need to process our post-election feelings:

While some are celebrating, others of as are in a true grief process. Some people are rushing to say we need to forgive, be hopeful, move on. No. Not yet. In any grief process, similar to an open wound, our raw feelings need to be named and given space. Premature covering usually leads to a festering infection.

What we experienced this past week was a once-in-a-lifetime political event. We can’t deny the aftershock and increased division across our nation. As people of faith, who believe in a God that can handle our strongest emotions, we are called to minister to those scared, confused and disillusioned. We are called to use our holy spaces to make room for their feelings.

So, here is my request: Stop telling others they just need to move on. Don’t demand they quit whining. Don’t tell them to get over it. We need time to feel our feelings. It's what makes us human. It's what keeps us sane.

This past Sunday I sat in the pew and felt resistance rise in me as people around me poured their hearts out. Their feelings flowed openly and freely. But something inside me shut down. Part of me just wanted to move on, not dive into the exhausting feelings of the past week. I didn’t want to be vulnerable.

Yet, as I listened to others speak from their hearts, I realized holding my guard up would not help me or anyone. I needed to express my feelings about this election. It’s what makes me human. It’s what keeps me sane.

The church is often called a hospital for sinners. I prefer hospital for the hurting. I believe it is our job as followers of Christ to offer healing and work to prevent infection. Our nation is at risk for future infection if we leave the anger, bitterness, and rage to fester. We need to name it, work through it, and worship is a space to do this important work as we confess our sins together, receive forgiveness, praise God with our hearts and minds, and give thanks for life shared together.

I pray the church does not embrace a defensive posture in the coming months; rather, I hope it offers a listening ear to the unheard, offers acceptance to the marginalized, breaks bread with the hungry and allows the broken and hurting and disillusioned to lean on us for awhile.

The good news is our feelings are not final, God’s love is final. Our suffering continues, but does not hold the power to separate us from the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Nothing can separate us from this love. Not elections, not a divided nation, not red and blue states. Nothing. God’s love undergirds us and holds us when everything feels like it might unravel.

Let us rest in God’s loving hands and may God’s tender hands give us strength to do the work we are called to do this season. This is a time for soul searching. It's gonna take awhile. Please, church, don't just move on.

comments powered by Disqus