On A Personal Note


Last week, I received an email from an old friend, despairing about what this election cycle has revealed of our national angst.

He was born in Malaya, as it was known when my family moved there. He was a member of the church my father and mother founded.

He loved America, especially Abraham Lincoln, and eventually emigrated here, settling in Iowa, where he is a tenured professor. He married here. He raised his children here.

He still loves his adopted country, so when he shared his anxiety about this election, this is the response I sent to him. It’s personal, not of the nature of my usual posts, but this is an unusual day:


Thank you for such a thoughtful and personal note. We share so much history I wonder if perhaps our love for Lincoln, for an idealized America, was born in the difficulties we witnessed in Malaysia in our formative years.

When I despair, I think of Joseph.

God doesn’t promise us nothing but good times. God promises to be with us as we endure difficult times, even past the point of death.

The more I learn about the way humans make decisions, the more persuaded I am that IF personal change is to come, it will happen one person at a time.

We feel before we think, and we think to justify what we feel.

That’s why real change is so difficult.

We have to find a way to reach the emotional brain before we can attempt to transform the logical brain.

Christ faced a similar dilemma, yet his life, his name, is known by more people today than at any other point in human history.

Our work is to engage one other person, to listen to their fear, which is expressed in anger and discrimination, to understand it, and then to love that person so completely that the fear becomes trust and truth.

It’s very hard work, but it’s the only work that matters if our immigrant-based democracy is to thrive.

Just as Joseph could not see any part of God in what happened to him, by his very brothers, so today we fear our future as well.

But I believe God is here with us, and all He needs is to change one life, to use one hopeless life to prove His presence will be decisive when this story ends.

Minds don’t change through anger. Minds change through hope, and it is up to each of us to shine that light of hope for all to see.

Remember Joseph. Trust. Hope. Love.