A few nights ago, I sat on my couch scrolling through Facebook, perusing the newsfeed. There were shouts of joy and screams of rage, there were cries of despair and songs of hope. As I noticed this wide range of reactions to our country’s presidential election, I noticed an unsettledness rising within me as the reality of what I was reading hit me. I read of protests and vandalism. I watched a video of a man pulled out of his car and beaten because of whom he voted for. I saw words of hate and accusation. I saw hope, and I saw fear.
My heart’s prayer to God was a mother’s cry for protection as I faced the fear I felt for my children and their future. It was a cry of helplessness and of hopelessness. This reaction was not stemming from who was elected or who wasn’t, but from seeing the pain in people, the hurt, and the division in our country. It was a deep noticing of what is going on around us, the brokenness we all carry, and I felt sorrow.
The Gift of Sorrow:
It reminded me of the sorrow experienced during the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the kind of sadness that God allows us to feel when we are being awakened to a sinful tendency or a deep hurt that calls forth in us an urge to change. Noticing and naming our sorrow can be painful. It can also bring a sense of our helplessness to change anything by ourselves. In essence, it brings to light our dependency on God. Our need for God’s mercy.
As I named, yet again, my need for God, three questions that we are called to pray with during the Spiritual Exercises rose within me like a drum-beat:
What am I doing for Christ?
What have I done for Christ?
What ought I do for Christ?
I began offering these questions to God as I prayed with what I had just noticed on my Facebook feed. God turned my sorrow into a reminder of my call to be part of the transformation, as the last question began to take shape in the form of a litany of noticing and discerning:
- What ought I do for Christ to help heal our country? To help bring people together?
- What ought I do for Christ to help those who are marginalized?
- What ought I do for Christ to help fight racism?
- What ought I do for Christ to welcome strangers?
- What ought I do for Christ to open dialogue?
- What ought I do for Christ to help restore human dignity to those who feel theirs is being taken away?
A Framework for Prayer:
Maybe this could be your prayer right now? I offer you the following prayer experience as a way of praying through whatever you are holding right now in regards to the election.
- Find a silent place and still yourself.
- Ask God to help you notice and name what is happening around you and within you. Let what arises within you be an honest naming, whether it be anger, sadness, joy, or hope.
- After naming and noticing, turn to the 3 questions St. Ignatius gave us:
- What have I done for Christ?
- What am I doing for Christ?
- What ought I do for Christ?
- Notice if any nudge to action arises within you. Make note of it. Talk to God about it.
- If you can act on what arises now, make a commitment to do so. If it still feels unclear, continue to pray with these questions in the days ahead.
- Close your prayer in a way that feels comfortable to you. Perhaps, offering an Our Father or other spoken prayer.
My Nudge to put Mercy into Motion:
As my prayer continued to be offered, I began re-reading the very words on this website. I chuckled to myself as I remembered that we’ve just spent an entire year dedicated to mercy, and I briefly forgot the very things we’ve been writing about all year… God can birth newness into any situation, God can heal what seems irreparable, God can reconcile what seems permanently separated. AND, we play a part in this. God’s mercy works through us. Through our prayers and through our own actions.
Rob Tasman’s words from his post near the beginning of our Mercy Matters series woke within me a calming clarity of my first action, “Compassion allows us to build communion while seeing others in their truest dignity. That I can do. We can all do it, actually. I can show compassion and seek to see the truest dignity in the other person. Compassion allows us to see the other’s dignity, God within them.
And now that has changed my prayer to, “May God within me, meet God within you.”