January 20 is the inauguration of one of the most controversial leaders our country has ever had. Some of my fellow Americans are ecstatic at the hope of a new administration and a return to former prosperity. Some are struggling with fear and anger at worst case scenarios and likely outcomes.
When it comes to politics, I am one part cynic about elected and appointed leaders, and two parts trust in the goodness and decency of people. I could have said that no matter who was take the oath of office on January 20.
Some of you reading this are in the first group, some in the latter, and maybe a few of you are like me, balancing cynicism and faith. Many of us find ourselves asking the question, in the midst of such deep division, what are we supposed to do? I have a lot of friends traveling to D.C. Not for the inauguration, but for the women’s march on Saturday, and I applaud them for taking part in one of the most American of rights, to assemble and make their voices heard. I participated in a similar rally several years ago in the national Mall, and it was beyond words.
But not all of us can get to the inauguration to celebrate the peaceful transition of power, or make our way to the march the next day. Earlier this week I asked myself, how am I going to participate?
First, I’m going to pray for the people who are traveling. May they be safe and return home to their families. All of them.
Next, I’m going to pray for the friends with whom I disagree. All of them. My love for you is more important than our political differences. I’m going to pray you feel the same way.
Then I’m going to pray for the people in power whom I fear, whom I resent. I know hating them only hurts me and gives me the rush that comes with the illusion of power. I know fear and love cannot co-exist in my heart. I can be concerned, but I trust the ship will right itself no matter who is at the helm.
After I pray, I will look at my feet and ask myself, “Where are my feet?” And I’m going to tell myself that I’m right here, right now, and in this moment I have a roof over my head, food in my pantry, gas in my car. I have a job, I have my health, I have my family. I have everything I need just for today. I’m going to choose to trust God that He will continue to provide, and I’m going to do my part to support myself.
Then I will make a gratitude list, not just for all the gifts I have in my personal life, but for the gift of living in a country where even in the midst of deep division we can count on a peaceful transition of power. I will be grateful for elections, and mid-terms, and presidential term limits, and the balance of power. I will be grateful no one gets to stay in that office indefinitely. Rotation of leadership is healthy.
Finally, I will reflect on the oath our new president will take.
“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
There is so much richness in those 35 words. Faithfully. The best of my ability. Preserve, protect, and defend.
I will never be President of the United States, but I can’t help but feel as if we all could stand to take that oath on Inauguration Day, renewing our commitment and citizenship. His job is my job, too. Sometimes our leaders’ best sucks. They have all fallen short one way or another, which is why we have a congress, a Supreme Court, and 50 state governments to share the burden. This country won’t work unless we all do our part to keep the ship upright, even if that means some of us lean left during the storm, while others lean right. If we all leaned the same direction we’d sink.
Most presidents add four additional words after reciting the oath. “So help me God.” I prefer to say it with a comma; it changes the meaning ever so slightly, from statement to humble request.
So, help me God.
Help me be a good citizen. Help me be a good neighbor. Help me preserve, protect, and defend. Help me to be my best. Help me, God. Help us all.