The morning after the election, I sat down to breakfast with a dozen other men for our weekly bible study. There was, among some, a gallows sense of humor about the bleakness of the country’s prospects in the months and years ahead. A month or so ago, I would have eagerly joined in the conversation. Heck, I would have led it. But I felt decidedly different that a.m., and that feeling has since deepened.
In the weeks leading up to the election, as John McCain’s prospects steadily worsened, I steeled myself for what I thought was the inevitability of Obama’s election. I told everyone I spoke with that it was all over for McCain and that Obama was going to be our next president. And that we better get used to the idea. Still, the night of the election, my resolve left me and I became increasingly anxious and even depressed about an Obama presidency. I had nothing against him personally; like many people I found him to be an inspirational figure, but on many issues of importance to me and my business, our values contrasted sharply. I was a life-long Republican; he was a Democrat. I was not necessarily excited about John McCain but for better or for worse, he was my guy.
As I lay in my bed that night, I felt a strong need to pray and ask that God would change my perspective. I didn’t want to be despondent about the election. I didn’t want to join in all of the “gloom and doom” emails I knew would be in my inbox the following morning. I wanted to be able to heartily congratulate the Obama supporters I knew I would run into the next day and at church on Sunday.
There are times when I pray and minutes later I will forget that I even prayed, much less remember for what it is that I prayed. But this time it was different. The results were startling. I was able to pick up the newspaper the next morning without the sense of dread that I think would have been there had God not intervened. In fact, as I went through the next couple of days, I actually grew excited about the possibilities of his presidency.
This is what our pastor would call “a God thing,” because that is not where my head and my heart were just a few days earlier.
At the risk of sounding preachy, I want to urge all of those out there who did not vote for Obama to resist the temptation to engage in disparaging our new president. Instead, consider taking a different tact in the weeks, and months ahead when conversations inevitably turn to politics.
Our country is divided on so many levels: race, politics, economics. And that discourse often turns ugly – even among Christians. We are supposed to be different. I am not saying we are supposed to become silent drones over the next four years and pretend we support Barack Obama’s every initiative. But we can speak respectfully about him and gently encourage other believers to do the same. And most important, we can pray for him — for wisdom and for his safety.
I had committed weeks ago to stop engaging in negative talk about Obama. But I didn’t have any heart change. It wasn’t until I started praying for a new perspective that real change occurred.
We have an opportunity to build bridges where perhaps, they did not previously exist. The love and self-control we demonstrate to others now have eternal consequences and will outlast any legacy of the next four to eight years.