After Much Tribulation

It has been almost a month since I have posted here. I hope and pray you are all healthy and have food to eat. I’ve been conflicted about sharing my anxieties with you at this time because it is such a difficult moment for everyone. I would never want to cast burdens upon your shoulders when you are already carrying so much. Still, when we all hold our emotions inside afraid to share, we miss out on the opportunity to comfort one another in trials. We also deprive ourselves of sharing those glorious moments of triumph that happen after much tribulation.

This moment in history is astoundingly significant. Every day the headlines paint the dangerous crises of the pandemic, the mental health consequences of the pandemic, the political convulsions, the economic devastation. Even on the local level, there is no sense of safety. Our ICU capacity is at 94% in Tarrant County. Over forty percent of the beds are Covid patients, almost double the number that there were just weeks ago. There are only 18 remaining ICU beds in the whole county.

And people got together for Thanksgiving. Today is two weeks since Thanksgiving, so people who were exposed over the holiday are now sick enough to possibly need hospitalization. Hospitals are preparing for the inevitable surge of cases. A seventeen year old boy in our county died yesterday from the virus. It is really horrible to hear about elderly people who lived a long and full life and deserved to die with family and friends beside them and a beautiful funeral to honor their memory, die alone and buried with no funeral and no closure for grieving families. It is a whole different layer of horror to see a life snuffed out that was just beginning. Such a death is not just loss of life, but the death of experiences that might have been; relationships that never will be; a hole that cannot be filled. I can’t imagine the shock and despair if I lost one of my sons to this virus. Such a preventable and senseless death! Only a few more months and the pandemic will likely be finished, yet the callous indifference of so many will be remembered.

Over three thousand Americans died from the virus yesterday.  It is the most deaths from a virus in one day ever recorded in American history.  My county medical examiner’s office has now installed refrigerated trucks outside the office to accommodate the accumulation of bodies.  And yet there are people even now who minimize this virus.  They insist that adherence to public health measures is cowardly and submissive and misguided.  They take risks insisting that they alone are affected by their irresponsible choices.  They proudly cut and paste crafty rationalization messages into their Facebook feeds where they sit as a silent witness of their own moral degradation.  They are members of the church, they are contributing members of the community.  They are otherwise decent moral people, and yet there is a rot within.

And the rot expresses in other ways as well.  Two days ago the Texas attorney general Ken Paxton filed suit against Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.  His argument is that as Texas voters have an interest in the outcome of the election, they have an interest in making sure that other states do their due diligence to ensure that their presidential election was valid.  He alleges that because these four states made changes to their voting processes shortly before the election, that their election lacks credibility.  He ignores the obvious reality of the pandemic and the massive health risks that would increase with the gathering of massive numbers of Americans to vote indoors as is the typical process.  His argument would have merit if the pandemic was a hoax as many believe it to be.  If swing states had made last minute changes to their voting process a month before the election for no apparent reason, that would appear suspicious.  But to ignore the entire pandemic is disingenuous and dangerous as there are so many Americans who are not taking it seriously as it is.

If that were the end of it, it would be bad enough.  Unfortunately, eighteen other state’s attorneys general have added themselves as plaintiffs to this case.  This is perhaps the most disturbing thing to come out of the last horrible five weeks.  Instead of standing behind our lawful election that was handled with remarkable efficacy in unprecedented circumstances, these seditious Americans have abased themselves to the will of a lawless mob in support of an authoritarian demagogue.  That they have so much popular support, that they have achieved one of the highest places of law enforcement in the nation, that they have rejected law and order to attach themselves to this shameless attempt to overturn the will of the people is appalling.  It is sedition.  It is a rebellion against the core of our constitutional process in slavish devotion to a man who cares nothing for the welfare of the nation as he has demonstrated numerous times throughout his presidency.  

The electors of all the swing states have been certified.  The President’s attempts to persuade state legislatures to disenfranchise their voters and force his will upon the state elections has failed.  Likewise, lawsuits attempting to discredit the results of the election have failed.  I believe Georgia has conducted four recounts, all of which the President has lost.  This suit, which is essentially civil war by court, is the last (hopefully the last) desperate attempt of the President to avoid the consequences of his disastrous leadership decisions.

I assume the Supreme Court will refuse to hear this case.  I understand that five justices must agree that the case warrants a hearing before it will be taken up.  It is highly unlikely that even if Trump’s nominees advocate for him, that two other justices will go along.  Justices Barrett, Kavanaugh, and Gorsuch are unlikely to even try to side with the President on this as it is so unlikely to succeed.  They would waste valuable reputational capital for no gain other than to please the rabid mob supporting this sedition.

So on the one hand, we have a right-wing authoritarian mob defying public health officials in a deadly pandemic and trying to overturn a lawful election in favor of an incompetent demagogue.  On the other hand, we have a left-wing mob obsessed with identity politics and ambivalent about our founding principles alleging that our entire justice system is based in racial suppression and demanding vast entitlements from the public treasury which is already vastly overdrawn.  Almost half of Americans believe that Joe Biden somehow stole the election from Donald Trump.  It is in these desperate circumstances that we find ourselves.  

How do we come back from this?  I was talking to my oldest son the other night for hours.  At fifteen, his brain has developed considerably in the last year or two.  We have managed to coax his cynical mask of indifference to fall from time to time in which he reveals insights, moral reasoning, and a raw energy that gives me hope that perhaps his generation will lead us away from the abyss.  This conversation, and the anticipation of more like it, have done so much to comfort me and ease my anxiety.

In fifteen years of imperfect parenting, it is miraculous to see the merciful hand of the Lord.  My son.  My beautiful son is growing up and becoming a remarkable, reflective, insightful young man!  I have preached for years with evangelical zeal about our nation and the genius of the constitution, American exceptionalism and our unique place in the world, and the importance of preserving our institutions for future generations.  It has seemed to fall on indifferent ears.  The other night, after discussing a seemingly unrelated line of thinking, he announced, “God really did inspire the constitution.  There is no other way it could have been created.”  This is the first time I have heard him talk about God with some amount of reverence in almost a year.

Looking back on the journey we have taken as a family, the tribulations we have experienced, the many hours in counselor’s offices, the failing grades, the endless stress of political and public health issues, and the exhausting toll of everyday life, I can finally see some sense of purpose in it.  My efforts have made a difference.

Today I dressed my youngest son and then realized that one of his top buttons was missing.  I was supposed to dress him in his Christmas best for the preschool Christmas program, but we were already late and I decided not to change it.  I didn’t forget anything today.  His water bottle, his lunch, his Covid screening paper; I remembered it all, but there was being late, and the button.  My mind ruminated on Christmas gifts I hadn’t bought yet, packages unsent, and how I had been inconsiderate to a friend.  I will never live a perfect life.  There will always be buttons missing, late arrivals, and mistakes made.  I don’t have to be perfect to make a difference.  The Savior will make up the difference.

It’s tempting to think of Him as swooping in on some dramatic global scale to rescue the righteous; but when I ponder on the miracle of my son, the answer to so many heartfelt prayers, and the wonder of watching a human soul take it’s journey into adulthood, I see His face.  He makes me enough.  He rescues my son, forgives me of my parental sins, and redeems us both.  Blessed be the name of the Most High God!

Nations will rise and nations will fall. Power will change hands. Men will corrupt themselves and one another with lies and sedition. The innocent will suffer. But the Savior can turn all these things to good. The wicked will not always profit from their sins. If we remain faithful to Him and hold fast to the truth that is within us, we will not fail and He will never abandon His people.

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