Well, that happened.
Donald Trump was elected to be our next president. Some of my friends and family are celebrating, while others are resisting with all they’ve got. Some still don’t believe it, and others are terrified.
Twentysixteen was a weird one.
After taking a few days to process, listen, and pray, I’ve come to the conclusion that America was bitten by a snake. All of us. Both sides. Conservatives, liberals, and everything in between or further out.
Symptoms of a venomous snake bite:
- Puncture wounds.
- Pain at the bite site.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Blurred vision.
- Sweating and salivating.
We’ve been struck so hard by real trauma and pain in our communities – racial injustice; economic inequity; sexism; the death of a particular way of life; fear of anyone different than ourselves; smugness; violent words and actions; distrust in our leaders and neighbors. The swell of social media and propaganda has inflamed and caused even more pain to the puncture – and we can’t seem to stop it. We hear people yelling, “I can’t breathe,” as we roll our eyes, ignoring the pain that our fellow Americans feel, and we become nauseated at the thought of having to engage with anyone we deem “deplorable.” We can’t see straight anymore. We don’t see the whole picture, only the parts we want to see, and we salivate at the thought of winning another argument, proving our side is right and the other side is crazy. We’ve become numb to violence. Numb to attacks. Numb to truth. Numb to people.
These actions don’t belong to one political party – this venom has spread throughout the country and into the Church, and poison does not discriminate.
We’ve been bitten by a snake, and now we’re panicking.
But 2016 wasn’t the year of the bite – it happened a long time ago, and the poison has manifested itself since the beginning of this country. The poison was already in us. But at least now we know it.
So what do we do now? Suck out the poison, right?
Wrong. It’s not that simple, and sucking out the poison from a snake bite isn’t even helpful. You’d have to cut open the wound, leaving it open for further infection, while wasting valuable time you could use to actually treat the bite.
Perhaps we should take some medical advice as we navigate post-election healing:
Get away from the snake.
Do we really want to keep getting bit? We’ve got to remove ourselves from the danger. For me, that means detoxing from angry social media. It means reading other perspectives than my own so that I don’t fall into the pit of confirmation bias. It means filling my time and my space with good things rather than snark and sarcasm at someone else’s expense. It means running from hate, anger, and complacency.
Lie down with the wound below the heart.
Heart on top. Got it. Sometimes, hurt people hurt people. When my words and actions come from my wounds rather than my heart, I become defensive and lash out. It’s not always easy, but if we can all just take a second and remember that every encounter should be heart-led rather than hurt-led, maybe we can break down some barriers?
Remain calm and still.
I mean, who wouldn’t benefit from some deep breathing and meditation these days?
Cover the wound.
People have been hurt. People are scared. People are angry. The wound is open, and it’s a big, oozing one. I don’t think one person can fix all of our problems. That’s too large of a task. But what I know I can do, is cover those who are hurting around me. I can reach out to those who are fearful for their lives or their rights or their way of life, and I can offer hope. I can offer a safe place for them to process. I can offer encouragement. And I can offer to work together with them to create peaceful and transformative change. We, Church, can be the bandage that covers those who are hurting and suffering – that is, after all, what Christ did.
Don’t drink alcohol.
Go home, 2016. You’re drunk.
This advice is great to treat some symptoms, but it still doesn’t get the poison out, does it? These are all just steps to take while waiting for medical help. That’s where the anti-venom comes in. Here’s what I think our antivenom looks like: self care and care for others. Laughter. Prayer. Scripture. Real community with people that look differently from you. Engaging conversation. Asking questions. Listening. Turning off social media for like, 10 minutes. Finding joy in the everyday and mundane parts of life because that’s what life is all about it. Kissing the ones you love. Naps. Working toward real change, not just talking about it. Reading good books. Dancing. The Holy Spirit.
We’ve been bitten, folks, and it’s time to start healing the right way.