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11.10.2016 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

Thoughts on a New Presidency to my Brothers and Sisters

My beautiful friend Kristen Urichko shared her thoughts on our new President-Elect, and what our response should be. After reading her thoughts, I invited Kristen to share this post with us here.

Thoughts on a New Presidency to my Brothers and Sisters, By Kristen Urichko Kristen Urichko

This morning, I woke up in a warm bed. I looked up and saw the glass of my window fogged from the warmth radiating from my skin throughout the night. I thought about the freezing cold on the other side of that glass and how privileged I am to sleep in a warm bed.

A warm bed, a fridge with nourishing food, health insurance, a loving, supportive, thriving family, a college education, a computer, wireless internet, a top-of-the-line cell phone, a closet with clothes and shoes for all kinds of weather, decorations that bring me joy and nostalgia on the walls, clean water filling four different cups around my room, musical instruments that I don’t even have the discipline to practice, textbooks, cookbooks, fictional books, and soul-care books all at my disposal to read and learn from, multiple forms of transportation, the laughter of friends seeping through the walls.

And then, here’s the mind-blowing thing: I have two sets of this. One in Gainesville. One in Longwood. Sometimes, realizing this makes me drop to my knees in gratitude. Sometimes, this makes me sick with the overwhelming excessiveness. Sometimes, this makes me feel the magnitude of undeserving favor lavished upon me.

I did not work for any of these things. My parents did, and their parents before them, and my great-grandparents, and my great-great grandparents, all the way back to our family patriarch who came here on a boat from Slovakia with his young family to give them a better life built from work ethic and faith in our God.

How great a privilege it is to have so much opportunity dumped in my lap because of years of hard work. I almost cannot take it in. Work handed down through the generations of Urichko’s and our matriarchal line to give me the privilege of having all the things I listed above.

As a Public Health major at UF, I am becoming increasingly aware of the way this country prioritizes and has tried to uphold human dignity throughout its history. It is astonishing when compared with most of the other countries around the world. From the way we care for our astronauts to OSHA Labor Rights, this nation values humans and their intrinsic worth. Granted, there are many nations that accomplish certain aspects of this so much better than us, but the substantial healthiness and wealthiness of America humbles me and fills me with thanksgiving.

I want to be a grateful, responsible citizen of my Earthly home, but I want to be a faithful citizen of heaven that loves and practically cares for those who are defenseless, lost, illiterate, uninsured, poor, frustrated, exhausted, starving, and searching for a Savior.

I was originally going to write this post about a clinic I volunteer at, called Westside Samaritan’s Clinic.  Our clinic serves those who cannot afford health insurance and are in great need of primary care and/or dental services.  It also offers counseling and prayer to our patients at the end of their appointment if they so desire it. Our clinic is completely run by volunteers in the community (doctors, nurses, Physician’s Assistants, students, retirees, etc.), all banding together to serve the marginalized in Alachua County.  I love that place. I love the way the people are motivated by the love of Christ to freely give of their time and knowledge to care for the patients that come to us and let us “bind up their wounds and pour oil and wine on them” but in our modern sense of those words. (However, sometimes, I would love to treat these people who feel shame and discouragement and isolation like kings and queens, pouring oil and wine on their feet. What beautiful richness to be lavished upon those who have known so much suffering and loss!)

Anyways, I digress. What I had originally set out to write about has been enlarged a bit by our current political climate. I want this blog post to be the meeting place for discussion and dialog; I want to learn from you, but I have some thoughts that I’ve been mulling over this week that I want to share them with you. I’m scared of being bold with my words because I want my thoughts to inspire more thoughts and not judge or condemn. But there are some things I have felt heavy-hearted about, and I just cannot keep it inside any longer.

I know so many people, whom I love and care about, that are afraid and crestfallen. Terrified and hopeless. Aghast and horrified. Panic-stricken and abandoned. They express stories of their immigrant parents who have worked for 10 years to get citizenship and who now feel that in two months, they might get denied citizenship to the country they love and consider their home. They tell of unimaginable pain of being separated from their loved ones, whether in marriage, geography, or quality of life. Worried concerns of mothers and fathers afraid of the cultural logic and moral decay that has been promoted by this new president-elect; and subsequently, the impact that this example will have on the ears and the hearts of their impressionable children. Stories of women who feel unsafe and objectified because of previously committed evils that are now painted as trite jokes, acceptable and warranted. Immigrants, members of the LGBTQ+ community, sexually victimized women, mothers, fathers, American-born citizens and their foreign-born families all feel the weight of worry and fear coming with this new president elect.

But I also have heard the sense of relief by working Americans, exhausted and looking forward to a brighter future ahead. I have heard the adults spared from abortion feel re-assured that women still have an incentive not to choose that path so quickly. I have heard business owners feel hopeful, supported, and encouraged that their industries, which once drove huge industrial and economic revolutions, may once again be able to provide food for their families.

This post is not meant to tell you about who I wanted to win the presidency, but it is meant to help you understand the perspectives of those you may have dismissed and to help you see that this new presidency gives us a chance to be good Samartians and to care for and love our neighbors.

I was reading Isaiah this morning (per usual). It’s my go-to book in times of confusion. When I lack discernment on how to feel about life and lack the wisdom to know how to act on those feelings, I turn to the prophet Isaiah to help me understand God’s decrees, justice, and plan for salvation. This morning Isaiah 59 and 60 really spoke to me.

“ Look! Listen!
    God’s arm is not amputated—he can still save.
    God’s ears are not stopped up—he can still hear.
There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you.
    Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God.
    Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear.
Your hands are drenched in blood,
    your fingers dripping with guilt,
Your lips smeared with lies,
    your tongue swollen from muttering obscenities.
No one speaks up for the right,
    no one deals fairly.
They trust in illusion, they tell lies.”

Sound familiar? It should because this sin is not only broadcast on national TV, but it also resides inside our wicked hearts. No one is exempt from sin; we all fall short. We trespass over the boundary of morality and goodness and our sins testify against us and we know them in our hearts (Isaiah 59: 12). We disobey, deny the Lord, turn our back from following Him, deny truth, speak oppression. Hate reigns sometimes… in our hearts and in the hearts of others we hate.

Where do we begin to fix this? It is too great a problem. It is a moral epidemic too massive to even comprehend. Who can deliver us from this wretched existence? If left to ourselves, how would we get out of this mess of toxic sin?

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will be seen upon you.

And nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
    they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from afar,
    and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.

Then you shall see and be radiant;
    your heart shall thrill and exult,
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you."

The Lord saw our mess and provided a way for us to experience this future glory and to bring this future glory to earth now through Jesus Christ, our Lord. I love that this passage not only speaks to my heart, but also encourages the friends that I mentioned earlier, the ones feeling exiled, scattered, and insecure. He says to us, “I saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede.” Then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak (verbatim from Isaiah 59: 16-17). Jesus became Savior, Intercessor, and Friend to our hopeless case.

My brothers and sisters, how do we respond to this grace of God, this privilege of being American citizens with so many countless blessings (that we should still count nonetheless)?

It’s about loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. It’s about holding all that we have with an open hand and not a closed fist being shaken at our new president. It’s about following Christ’s example and letting that shock Mr. Trump for a change.

I want to remind him that his Presidency does not remove God from the throne. He is not the answer. Empires rise and fall at God’s decree, not his.
I want him to be shaken to his core, like the hard-hearted, ancient kings of old, by the almighty power, the unimaginable wisdom, and unfailing love of God.
I want him to see us refusing the king’s food, standing in the fiery furnace, and interpreting dreams (which probably looks more like solving the national crises in our day) with wisdom and discernment all in the name of the Lord.

So, how does this start? We must arise from our privileged stupor, take up our cross, and follow Him. We won’t do it perfectly, but we have been called by name for this mission of redemption that God has set in place to bring justice and hope. We could not turn back even if we wanted to. When God decreed this future glory centuries ago, its utterance started a trajectory that would end in victory over death and sin and an invitation to us to accomplish His redemption plan with Him. Don’t you want to join in the victory march?

Our wrongdoing is great, but God’s grace and His power to carry out the good he began in you are greater. He sustains us. He supplies us. He loves us. He is the answer. Preach this to yourself and to you neighbor often and join the march.

Maybe joining the march for you looks like reading your Bible again and re-abiding in the vine that you’ve been rejecting nourishment from. Maybe joining the march looks like volunteering your gifts and talents in some capacity outside your comfort zone. Maybe joining the march means pursuing reconciliation among your family members. Maybe joining the march means being more responsible of the resources God has given you by wasting less and cherishing the more that you already have.

When I was in middle school, my mom decided to have a massive garage sale. Our house had just flooded from a flurry of hurricanes that had swept through central Florida in late months of summer. So, she found it the perfect opportunity to purge our house of all unnecessary clutter. Well, on the Saturday of the garage sale, we all left the house for a day filled with soccer games, basketball games, and church events. We came home exhausted and hungry to find our entire living room empty. No couch, no love seat, no big armchair. And I (the luckiest of them all) went to my room to find another surprise: no bed. My brother, my dad, and I had returned home to an empty house and all we could do was stand there and just scratch our heads.

When we finally found mom, she was alight with joy and energy. Mom’s soul was supercharged, so happy, flying through the clouds like a giddy songbird. She was so high above us and we were just trying to understand how or why almost all of the furniture in our house was gone. In my pride and selfishness, I was confused and bitter, but when the explanation finally came, I’ll never forget how clear and bright and straightforward her reasoning was: they all needed beds and I had beds to give! As the story began to unfold, I was kind of in shock but I’ll never forget how the simple the whole situation was to my mom.

She saw a young Mexican couple with very broken English, two small children, and a new baby. She offered them all something to drink inside of our house. And in her very disarming, welcoming way, she found out their entire story. She found that they were all sleeping on the ground of a single room in a house of some acquaintances. She found that they needed furniture. She found that they had been living that way for months. She found that they were brave, persevering, and in need. And she was more than happy to meet that need.

The best part of this story is that mom didn’t give them the things from the garage sale; she gave them the things in our home that were NOT for sale. She gave them our couch that turned into a pullout bed so that their two children would have something to sleep on. She gave them the rest of the set just because. She gave the husband and wife my bed; it was too big for me anyways, she said, and she was right.

But she didn’t just give them furniture and beds. My mom gave kindness where they had only known judgment. She showed them generosity where they had been shown hardship and endured struggle. She gave them joy and hope and love in place of a cold tile floor.

I want to close with this quote from one of the ministers from my church back in Longwood:

“May our churches become sanctuaries for the refugee and immigrant, centers of empowerment for women, and havens for the poor.”

I love this. This encourages me. This stirs me up and reconnects me with the daily priorities and concerns of the early church. Whatever is ahead of us in these next four years, I hope that it continually awakens us to the reality that our call is to love God and love others abundantly, as we are abundantly loved.

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. November 10, 2016