The words came after days of fumbling through my silence. Not a good thing for someone who weekly weaves words. I am a preacher of all things sacred and soulful, so thoughts, words and spiritual observations are my trade.
I am writing this blog only hours before our nation observes the quadrennial practice of swearing in a president. My friends know my struggle over the past four years and before you stop reading, a struggle much less about politics and more about personality. It is less about governing a country’s resources and more about managing an individual’s character.
I fully recognize that much of my struggle with this president is due to his political base, but I am not talking about Republicans. I am talking about evangelicals, people who have a faith in Jesus Christ and believe that they can be “born again” through faith in Christ. These are “my people,” or at least, I used to think so.
My prompting to offer words during this consequential time in history is due to my journey as a pastor these past four years. Never in my 40+ years as a pastor, have I ever had to lower my head, clench my teeth and hold my breath when a president’s name was mentioned.
While we certainly had policy differences, for me, it was never just about politics. It was his personality. For the record, I am not talking about his personality profile (natural inclinations). I am talking about his personality behaviors (daily choices). For followers of Christ (evangelicals in its purest sense), we believe our “rebirth” allows a choice of our will and a surrender of our heart, to be a “new creation.” In the modern words of The Message translation, it goes like this:
“Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges!
“Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing.
“We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.”
Need I say more? Heralded into the office of the presidency on the shoulders of evangelicals, this president made a mockery of the miracle of the Gospel, that anybody can be “reborn” by the grace of God through faith in Christ. While I have no desire to list all my grievances with this president, the two that cause me to hold my breath include a refusal to tell the truth and demeaning anyone with whom he disagrees. I honestly even wondered, did Jesus watch this behavior and perhaps lower his head, clinch his teeth and hold his breath? I hear again those seven words of Jesus, “You will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:6). The apostle Paul’s declaration of the fruits of the Spirit roar in my ears: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).
Now, I have said what has been grinding in my spirit for years. Why? Well, “I just want to breathe again.”
Recently, I discovered a song by an unfamiliar artist, Juwita Suwito. The chorus goes like this:
I just want to breathe again
Learn to face the joy and pain
Discover how to laugh a little, cry a little
Live a little more
I just wanna face the day
Forget about the woes of yesterday
Maybe if I hope a little Try a little more
I’ll breathe again
Yes, I just want to breathe again.