It has been a difficult few months. Looking back, I believe that I have never been as concerned, as spiritually engaged with the world around me, as focused on something I could not control, as I was on this recent presidential election. It felt almost apocalyptic. I have never felt like that before in my entire life. It was as if a great dark and ominous cloud was advancing just beyond the edges of my sight. It reminded me of the early atmosphere in the series of books by Stephen Donaldson, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, especially in the book the The Wounded Land. I guess you could say that I felt like our country was a “wounded land” on the edge of dissolution.
This sense of foreboding has disturbed me greatly. I believe that anyone with an ounce of introspection would attempt to expose the source of this deep apprehension. Since I am getting older I have to ask was it age, since I have seen others move toward less rationality as they got older. I have to admit, that possibility made me a little defensive. Or was it something else, something real or something imagined? Was I just tired after staying up too late and getting up too early for weeks on end.
After some prayerful thought over the last few days, I believe that at least some of that sense of events ominous and threatening came from the influence of a number of converging environmental factors. Besides the acrimony surrounding the election itself, those would include:
1. Movies such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy that make the apocalyptic struggle against evil almost real.
2. The implosion of the Episcopal Church and my subsequent joining the AMiA, a traditional Anglican group, after a period of significant disruption in my life, which caused the breakup of a church that I had considered family for 27 years.
3. My change in work status and my approaching security clearance interview.
5. The world at large: continuing fallout from 9-11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and my perception of the pervasiveness of the terrorist threat.
6. My own blogging, where daily I try to engage the unknown by examining what is happening around me (see 1-5 above) and distill my thoughts on the same into a somewhat coherent analysis.
The question for me boils down to whether this was purely a psychological reaction to a confluence of events over time or, as a Christian, whether it was a spiritual insight that used these various sources to get my attention. For anyone reading this with even the slightest charismatic or Pentecostal background, you know that the question of a metaphysical component is not idle speculation, but a serious spiritual concern. We Christians always want to be open to God’s work in our lives, especially when one of our regular prayers is for wisdom and insight coupled with the belief that we have been given the gift of discernment. (See my article Theological Thursdays: Starting Point: Sola Scriptura) For those of you not coming from those perspectives, you probably think I have gone off my meds (if I had been on any meds in the first place ;-)).
To say that there was a sense of relief when the election was over and there was an early resolution to the result would be stating the obvious. However, was my relief at this sense of closure evidence that the former sense of oppression was merely psychological or was it because the spiritual landscape had indeed changed?
If you have gotten this far, you may have asked yourself why is he writing this stuff; why is he exposing his inner thoughts and dialog to public scrutiny? A fair question. You should know that my wife is uncomfortable with this type of personal exposure. But to answer that question you need to know that I think best out loud, and the lack of people around me to facilitate this kind of discussion makes my best mode of inquiry unavailable. In addition, I believe it is helpful for others, especially any regular readers, to see the kinds of things I wrestle with and how I try to resolve the issues. This can serve as a witness to the difficulty of coming to settled conclusions regarding certain types of circumstances, especially when they have to be examined through the spiritual lens of our Christian life.
As Christians we pray for the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and insight, to guide our understanding and decisions. As a result, we have to be open to how the Spirit might actually answer that prayer. Being a biblically oriented person, I always want scripture to be the final arbiter of my thinking, but scripture is usually not as much help as I would like in resolving these types of situations. Tthey are too experiential. In these cases, scripture’s primary usefulness is in warning us against straying into any occult areas in an attempt to resolve our quandaries. While we apply the whole unified sense of our biblical understanding to how we respond to the issues facing us, we have to resist the charismatic temptation to seek direct spiritual intervention to provide the answer. I am not denying this could happen, it has happened to me; just that you don’t go seeking it, because that is a prescription for real trouble. If God wants to intervene directly, He will do it unbidden. To the rationalist mindset, which many of my reformed friends are at heart, this probably all seems unseemly at best, and downright mystically dangerous, possibly heretical at worst.
I can say this. In the weeks and months before the election I prayed for peace and found none. After the election was over, it came to me on its own. Where does that leave me? If this was all psychological, I wouldn’t expect the resolution of the election to be the end of it. Being thrown that significantly off kilter, I would expect it to happen again and soon, with something else being the trigger. But, if it was indeed spiritual sensitivity and insight provided by God, then I would not expect the next stressful occurrence to cause a similar foreboding. I would expect God to maintain my sense of peace. Well, so far, so good.
So there you have it; judge for yourself. Just another day trying to live life out on the rim…