So here we are — the wilderness of 2017. Happy new year.
There is a dread that settles over me each morning when sleep fades and I realize once again that it is not a dream. Donald Trump will be our next President. I begin again to worry about the big things: my children, the planet, my clients, and my job. But that’s not all … I also worry about the dismantling of Medicaid, consumer protections, healthcare, environmental protections, and civil rights.
So, we enter the wilderness.
There is no question that these will be difficult years. People will suffer. Change will bring destruction. Some of the damage will be irreparable. It will be a dark and terrible wilderness.
Yet, there are glimmers of hope that exist in every wilderness. Time after time, story after story, and journey after journey, the wilderness has led to transformation, hope, and fulfillment. In my faith, it was the wilderness where God’s people entered before reaching the Promised Land. Jesus entered the wilderness to face and overcome temptations prior to beginning his ministry.
The wilderness was a place of mystical challenges in the fairy tales we heard as children.
The metaphorical wilderness is where our country entered time after time to become even greater than it was before. The wilderness of slavery and the Civil War led to the Emancipation Proclamation and President Lincoln. The wilderness of the Great Depression led to Social Security and innovations in employment and consumer protections. The wilderness of World War II led to civil rights movements, economic prosperity, and new possibilities for women and minorities. And, the wilderness of two centuries of racial injustice and segregation led to the Civil Rights Acts, the dream of Martin Luther King Jr., and President Barack Obama. Of course, it can be debated the extent of the gains made through each of these wildernesses, but Martin Luther King, Jr. was right that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
For Laura and me, one of our wildernesses was when we tried and tried to have a baby. Neither of us ever imagined that we would not be able to have children naturally. When it did not happen after a couple of years, we visited doctors and did what they said. We formed a couples’ group at our church of couples who were also struggling to have children. Ultimately, the doctors got rich, the other couples in our group got pregnant, and we still could not have a baby. We never did on our own.
Thank God! While it is and will always be painful for us, we would not want it any other way because we would not have our two children. Through an adoption agency, we were contacted by Evan’s Birth Mother. We were there for his birth. We had an emotional ceremony in the chapel of the hospital two days later. Evan’s Birth Mom handed Evan to the two of us to be his forever parents. Three years later, Julia would come to us much the same way. We also gained the birth families of Evan and Julia. We love and stay in touch with them. In fact, Evan and Julia both attended the weddings of their Birth Mothers. It was in the wilderness where we found our two children.
For most of my adult life, I have been a news-junkie. Now, I struggle to look at it. When I do, it is usually worse than I imagined.
So I have turned to books. I have devoured them since the election, particularly books about World War II — the time when our world and country were in possibly the darkest most horrifying wilderness. I have gone through The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, The Winter of the World, part of William Manchester’s book on Churchill, and now FDR. I search for hope in another time of hopelessness.
In FDR, I am at an earlier wilderness moment where Roosevelt went from being the darling of the Democratic Party as its losing Vice Presidential candidate in 1920 to being struck by Polio two years later and losing all movement from the waist down. FDR’s mother wanted him to return to his hometown to live out his days. But his wife and his closest advisor urged him to rehabilitate as much as possible and work his way back into the world.
That same time was a wilderness period for the Democratic Party. Roosevelt, who kept close tabs on politics during his rehabilitation remarked that he did not believe the Democrats would have another President until the nation understood that “Republican rule meant government by selfish interests and powerfully entrenched individuals.”
Roosevelt would ultimately lead the United States through two of its most challenging periods – – the Great Depression and World War II. He was able to do this, like no one else could, because he experienced and overcame his own wilderness of losing his ability to walk.
And so, we enter 2017 with the tweeter as our President-Elect, with someone who scoffs at global warming as the likely head of the EPA, with someone who believes robots should take over for employees as our likely Secretary of Labor, with someone who wants to gut the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid as our likely Secretary of Health, with someone who wants to slash most domestic spending as the head of the President’s budget, and with many other frightening new leaders.
We enter the wilderness. It will be difficult. It will be painful. It will bring about irreparable damage.
Still, I have hope. We will overcome and grow from this wilderness like we have every other one.
So, Happy New Year! Welcome to 2017. Welcome to the Wilderness.