An election is about ordinary people being asked a question: "Out of these available candidates, whom do you think is best suited to run the country the way you believe it ought to be run?"
A lot of times, people make the mistake of thinking the question really is, "Who is the perfect man/woman we can put all our faith in to set all the wrongs of our world right?"
This means we often are really excited about "our guy" winning, only to be deeply disappointed in who he actually turns out to be. He passes massive spending bills when we were convinced he was a dyed-in-the-wool small government friend. He bows when he ought to shake hands. He can't seem to get rid of abortion or even encourage reducing it's occurrence even though he sounded so fervently indignant about it on the campaign trail. He wobbles when asked to stand firm in the face of worldwide pressure to do bad things. He comes out in favor of mandatory vaccines when we thought he was staunchly for the freedom of parents to make decisions for their children. And on and on.
Sometimes our ire is justified. Sometimes politicians do lie about their beliefs to appeal to the people they think will be most likely to vote against their opponent. It's regrettable, but true.
Most of the time, it's our own fault. We pick these people out of starry-eyed idealism rather than reading and listening and studying facts.
It's a little bit like today's marriage woes. We've been sold the idea of "falling in love" so long that we fail to see the selection of a husband or wife as the weighing of someone else's true foundational thoughts and philosophy. Romance takes center stage and thoughtful reasoning is left on the shelf.
Which is how so many wives can lament, "I had no idea he was a drinker" or husbands say, "She cares what her friends say more than what I do." People today resort to living together for a while before marriage in a kind of "trial period" hoping to really get to know the other in a real world sense, but romance and feelings are still central and philosophy is not and so both cohabitation and marriage wind up in bitter divorce at least 50% of the time.
Selecting our leaders has become the same way. This is my theory as to why presidential approval ratings so often go from really high to really low when the man himself is only doing what we should've expected if we really listened to what he said while he was interviewing for the job.
We like being romanced by candidates. We like hearing the things we want to hear and joining a Movement, being held up and comforted by a tide of excitement and hope and it's-a-whole-lot-of-us-righteous-guys-against-the-massive-evil-bad-guys mentality.
We get swept up in the speeches and the promises and our own idea of who someone is and totally miss who the man himself really is and what he really thinks, based on the evidence of what he's done with the rest of his life.
Which brings me to this fascinating, bewildering election we're watching unfold.
I've always viewed elections as something I could have a very strong opinion about but not really do much about.
In other words, I can answer the fundamental question about whom I think should lead, but the final overarching answer is always God's. No matter what I think or do, he ultimately chooses leaders and deposes them. So I more or less sit on the sidelines, eat my popcorn and watch interesting developments before contributing my one little drop to the ocean of opinions.
My strongest opinion actually has nothing to do with what candidate to actually vote for. It has to do with my responsibility in how to vote.
Since I believe it's God who ultimately chooses, my job is, as usual, to be answerable to him for every action I take. When I stand before him someday, he isn't going to talk to me about how well (or terribly) I did choosing a leader for my country. He's going to be weighing my heart to see if I loved him first or if I let my feet go where they wanted without his input. My responsibility is to vote for whom I believe - based on whatever evidence I can find, not my feelings - to be closest to what God would want; and, absent anyone even close, to vote for someone who will do the least harm to what God would want. That's what I'm answerable to him for. Not the ultimate decision. Just mine.
My responsibility isn't to long after the perfect candidate or decide any of the options ARE. Unless Jesus has come back and is ruling as King, there is no perfect candidate. And Jesus isn't going to be voted in, so I don't have to worry about it.
It's not to choose the man who embodies my anger the best.
It's not to choose someone I feel most comfortable with when I see him speak.
It's not to be swayed by every manufactured emotion I'm supposed to feel but to judge based on the clearest evidence I can gather.
It's not even to pick someone I feel would be best for our family finances, though that's probably a better reason than choosing someone embodying anger and frustration.
I need to vote for the most good in the most practical way possible. And then leave the decision to God, not being angry or frustrated when the result isn't what I thought it should be.
This is why I read what the candidates say for weeks or months before I ever see them speak on TV. Because you can be fooled by what you see on TV a lot easier than what you read in a man's words. This is why I'm more interested in the overall pattern of their behavior than of their specific stances on issues which may change given the right incentive. This is why I can tell you much more easily whom I would absolutely not vote for rather than whom I would: because my process of choosing works by elimination, like answering multiple-choice questions on a test.
Whether someone is successful or not, if they got there by lying, cheating, and bad behavior, I'm going to assume they will continue that pattern.
If someone overall appears to be seeking good but has done things I don't agree with, I don't necessarily hold the mistakes against them.
If someone isn't of the same religious background I am but I still see evidence of an upright individual doing his best to do what's right, I won't hold the doctrinal differences against him.
If the person I think is the best candidate doesn't end up being an option to vote for, I don't refuse to make a decision because "my guy" isn't in the race anymore. (I did consider this for the first time this year, but my brother has talked me out of it by reminding me that my job is to make a decision based on what's in front of me, not what I WISH was in front of me...)
Voting is not romantic. It's not about what makes me feel the best. It's not about picking whoever says what I happen to be thinking at the time. It's about choosing someone the closest to good among the options I'm presented with.
And that's why - in this primary season - I can't vote for Donald Trump. He's the romantic candidate. But romance alone ends in bitterness, disillusionment and divorce and that's what I foresee happening with a potential Trump presidency. It's not just differing opinions. It's my basic approach to weighing a candidate: good first, ideas second, evidence of life as backup. Donald Trump doesn't factor God into his decisions and so his decisions will not be made by seeking what's good.
Whatever good you think he will do, it will be offset by the evil he will just as casually do because he doesn't understand or value goodness.
Other candidates may ultimately not value good either. But we have evidence on this one. I wish I could plead with everyone I love not to get married just because they "fall in love" and not to vote for a leader because they think he sounds or looks good in the position. Divorce is a bitter, ugly, heartbreaking catastrophe; and so is following a man who doesn't believe in good but in winning.
As Popeye said, "Bad is bad even if it helps ya."
So now I've voiced my opinion. And whatever decision God makes, it's for a good I'm too small to be able to see.
May the best man win.
If you were to ask me to sum up in one word one of the biggest lessons being Mom has taught me, I would say "mortification".
That word has a lot negative connotations but that's because most of us don't like the idea of being taken down a notch or two. Mortification gets a bad rap, though. Jesus himself "mortified" or "humbled" himself to become a man out of love for his Father and love for his Father's Creation. That makes mortification a good thing, if character is allowed to grow or show through it.
From the very beginning of our children coming into the world, I've learned more through mortification than ever before. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, the arrival of children has betrayed my weaknesses to me like nothing else in my life ever has.
Lots of people have talked about how they were experts in child-rearing until they had a child. It's true. It's easy (if you have un-mortified pride) to think you know everything about the whole process. Until you are actually faced with, say, your child throwing a tantrum in a grocery store. Then you have a choice: pretend nothing's wrong, get mad at the screamer, or be truthful.
I could say, "It's only a phase" or "children just do these things" or any one of a number of excuses. This would instantly let me off the hook and give my pride a chance to live another day.
I could take offense that my kid is being so embarrassing in public ("how dare she!") or pretend I'm a perfect parent and it's her fault she's screaming her head off in the vegetable aisle. My pride might be a little damaged on the surface because I'm embarrassed...but then I just have a hard heart toward my little noisemaker and pretend I should only be embarrassed by what she's doing, not by anything I've done.
Or I could be truthful and say, "This is not good. This isn't necessary. And this is my fault. She's only doing what I've taught her. Time to go back to the drawing board."
And so pride becomes mortified and there is a chance for learning to take place. Doesn't mean learning DOES, but at least there's a chance.
My bubble of impression that I was reasonably clear-sighted, knew what I was doing, and had a deep relationship with God has been burst by the arrival of our children. I'm sure illusions remain. My children are after all still very small. But at least if the bubble is burst there's a chance to build something real.
(And by the way, our two small children are about to become three sometime in May.)
Mortification is priceless.
Not pleasant, but priceless.
Because there is no one so blind as someone who thinks they can see. And parenthood is no place for blindness. Blindness in this arena is catastrophic.
More than anything else, someday I want my children to stand before God and have him say to them, "Well done!" If my pride isn't mortified, it doesn't exactly help them get there. My pride could very well keep them from getting there. They bear their own responsibilities before God, but parents can be a huge stumbling block and can teach things not easily undone. Especially if a parent is blind, hypocritical and arrogant (which might be three ways of saying the same thing).
That, by the way, is not to say that motherhood is all about philosophical and embarrassing moments. It's full of many hilarious, sweet and pleasant moments as well. Such as when Abigail leans over to me and says, "Mommy, why is your tummy getting so big? Are you sure there is a baby in there?" and then puts her face close to my stomach and says, "Baby? Are you really in there?" or when Susannah walks around saying "Where's Mom? Where's Mom?" until she finds me and shouts, "MOM!!!" joyfully.
But I expected those. I didn't expect the level of mortification I've experienced. My pride thought I'd learned things I'm learning I never learned. Patience. Consistency. Understanding. Joy. Courage. Selflessness. Generosity. Humility. And that's the short list.
And now I'd better stop writing and go teach Abigail why picking her nose is not the way she was made to look. Or else she's going to start doing it in the grocery store.
No one said it was a bad idea to recognize mortification is going to happen before it actually does.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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