"Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, 'Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. No appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.' But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, 'Give us a king to judge us,' And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, 'Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them...'"
(1 Samuel 8:4-7, ESV)
I've been rereading my Bible. Each year I try to spice up my quiet times with something new and this year I decided that I would start in Genesis and read till Revelation. I would read scripture like the story it is. That means I keep reading until a particular thread is finished. I sit and read all through the story of Noah- ignoring the chapter numbers, that usually have me pausing. Ironically, throughout this election cycle I've been making my way through the stories of Israel's kings.
So my life was saturated with two narratives- one, was all about the battle between one ego-driven, sexist businessman and the corrupt, Lady Macbeth politician and one was the narrative of God's people who demanded a king and began generations of sometimes great and sometimes awful empires. This is how I spent my summer, my fall, and my winter.
God was telling me something, but I am a slow learner, a very slow learner.
This morning I was reading about Manasseh and the roller coaster ride that was his reign in Judah and it hit me like a ton of bricks: I've been asking all the wrong questions. I've been wringing my hands about the state of my country, the state of my friends and family, the state of my news feed. I've worried, debated, argued, and avoided. I've asked questions and tried to engage well. I've done all those things we do when we are participating in the process. And that's great- I guess. Except, I think I forgot something.
I forgot that there's a reason Israel kept having to tear down the altars of idols from the high places. They were asking the wrong questions too. They were wringing their hands about the state of their people, the state of their friends and family, the content of conversation by the temple gates (well, once a temple existed). They worried, debated, argued, and avoided. They asked questions and tried to engage well. They did all the things you do when participating in the process. Except for them- the process was the idol of Baal or some other foreign god. Me? My idol has become the belief that politics, politicians, and the "process" is the empire that saves us.
I forgot that there is only one King I bow to and he doesn't live in a white house or have a podcast. He isn't a liberal or a conservative. The King I bow to doesn't give me easy answers or easy outs. He calls me to action- that's for sure. He calls me to participate. But He also calls me to remember who it is I worship. I've been forgetting. I didn't mean to, but somewhere between Presidential debates and Buzzfeed articles I forgot.
I don't write this as a judgement to my community or as a way to say that we shouldn't be participating in what's going on in our world. I write it, because I need the reminder- in black and white, that God is King. That Christ is the only savior and that no matter who sits in power, one day their empire crumbles and all knees bow before the glory of the Almighty. It helps me keep perspective and it helps to remind me that my King calls me to grace, compassion, and kindness. He calls me to love. He calls me to seek out the other and to welcome the stranger. Those sound nice and they might look pretty if someone stitched them on a pillow, but I know that those are deeply sacred, deeply difficult calls to action.
I hope I have the courage for them.