I have loved following the U.S. election. It has been great entertainment. It has had a great villain (or two, if that’s how you feel), and it has be fun to watch and hold on to the sure fact that sanity will prevail. The good guys will win in the end.
Today as I watched the election results it all seemed surreal. How could this happen? Everyone said it wouldn’t. The polls, the experts, the internet, everyone was sure the racist, sexist, lying, boastful abuser wouldn’t get in. But he did.
I’ve spend most of the night trying not to focus on what has happened. And simultaneously wanting to scroll Facebook and commiserate with most of my newsfeed.
Being in Australia, I feel perplexed and bewildered. This new presidency will happen to us, and we didn’t get a say. It will happen to many countries, many worse off than ours, and they didn’t choose it. Being a white, middle-class man, it is perhaps a rare feeling of insecurity and powerlessness that I am feeling right now. I suspect many people feel this most of the time.
Perhaps this won’t be as bad as we think. Perhaps the collective depression that is being felt by all the like-minded people on my newsfeed will just turn out to be for nothing. Perhaps he’ll turn out to be as inert in office as he was explosive in campaigning. Who knows?
I said to Em tonight “I know I don’t normally go in for there being good years and bad years, but I think I can say 2016 has been an exceptionally bad year.” Not just in the world, or in politics, but in almost everything, 2016 has not been the year I would have predicted or wanted.
Whatever shining hopes there were in 2008, or 2010, or 2015, almost everything seems tarnished and dull now. I have had hope in politics, and economics, and jobs, and leadership, and general human goodness to make my world a good place, but they have all let me down. This failure reminds me what, on brighter days, I sometimes forget: that everything is broken. We’re all broken. I’m broken.
Someone posted a quote purportedly from “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis on Facebook tonight. The quote is not actually from “The Screwtape Letters”, it’s just written to look like it is. It’s good anyway. As a senior devil writing to a junior devil, It said:
My Dear Wormwood,
Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure that the patient continues to believe that the problem is “out there” in the “broken system” rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.
Keep up the good work,
It reminded me how much I am distracted by what is broken in them, in that, in the world – that I forget that I am broken too. As long as I am in the world, the world will be broken. Everyone, everything, even we ourselves, will let us down, because we’re all made of the same material, crying out for something better, “subjected to frustration”, waiting with all creation to be freed from “bondage to decay and brought into… freedom and glory”.
When Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in an attempt to make themselves like God, the rot set in. They were sent out of the Garden, never allowed to return lest they eat from the Tree of Life. Being banned from that tree was not just a punishment but also a gift. God was saving them from having to live forever in a world of interminable evil – the consequences of their treacherous audacity.
We live in a world of our own making. We will not find our Garden of Eden, we will not remake it ourselves, we cannot go back, everything is broken and we can’t fix it. This year is a great reminder that you’re broken and I’m broken, you broke it and I broke it – and none of us can fix it.
But the story is not all bad news. In fact the brokenness causes us to look for the solution. If we cannot save ourselves we must look beyond ourselves. If every system, every structure, every leader, every plan, every new leaf, every new resolution, every commitment to do better, eventually comes to naught, then we must look elsewhere. There must be hope beyond.
It turns out we see the Tree of Life again in the story of Scripture. It turns up right at the end. When all the evil of the world has been dealt with, when the Hope of the World has come again, when the old order of things has passed away and God has made all things new. The Tree isn’t in a garden anymore, but a city. It is planted by a river and its leaves are for the healing of the nations. These nations we hope in, these nations who let us down, these nations of ours will be healed.
Our hope lies not within us, nor among us, but beyond us. Our hope is with us, and our hope is for us. He was broken for the world we broke, he died for the people who put him to death, he beat death so that we might join him in life. One day he’s coming back – if we trust him, he’s coming back for us.
This year may not have been a good year, but it will make us look forward to the year that will be good, the year that will be the first year of all the good years to come. The year of healing, the year of restoration, the year of brokenness made new, and hope realised. The year of true life forever.
This post has had some minor edits since I first posted it because my excellent wife fixes my broken grammar.