Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Bear Hug

I fear that my blog posts have been heading from introspection and philosophy straight to nitty-gritty politics. Sorry about that. It's difficult not to get caught up in the spirit of campaign warfare, especially when you have forums like Facebook and the blogosphere to keep the bullets of partisan ammunition firing like a machine gun. I have to admit that I was gearing up to write another politically-saturated post. Lucky for you, two things stopped my downward spiral into becoming a biased, self-righteous bigot.

Seeing this meme on Pinterest made me laugh. I thought "it's so true! All these political rants on Facebook are exhausting and really, who's going to say 'oh, I saw your post on Facebook and it totally made me realize how wrong my point of view is'?. No one." Then I realized that if I were to catalog my own Facebook statuses and blog posts of the past month, I would be categorized as one of those people. How did this happen to me? At any rate, it made me more self-conscious about political venting on social media.

The second event that has swayed me from continuing a political crusade is the result of an epiphany and rare life occurrence. This past Saturday I attended the LDS Relief Society (fancy name for 'Mormon Women's group') general broadcast, where women holding leadership positions in the Mormon church give inspirational and uplifting talks. To be honest, I usually zone out about 15 minutes into the program. I'm sorry, can you blame me? Sitting in a darkened room on cushiony chairs over dinnertime, surrounded by sweet-smelling women, listening to other sweet-smelling women speak with melodious voices really has the tendency to make me want to take a nap. I usually submit to the urge, but this time I had resolved to listen to every word spoken from each woman's canorous speech. About 20 minutes into the program, I noticed women wiping tears from their eyes. "Here it goes", I thought as I prepared for feelings of spiritual inadequacy and/or general cold-heartedness. "There is no way I'm going to cry tonight". I continued to sit and listen, wondering with curiosity and envy why I wasn't feeling spiritually moved. And then, about 15 minutes later, it happened. I cried. Yes, it's true. Droplets of salty water welled in my eye sockets and overflowed over the lower lids. They streamed down my face. My lower lip quivered. I'm told this is "crying". I wanted to turn to the lady sitting next to me and point to the condensation emerging from my eyes, but I quickly realized that no one would have understood they were indeed witnessing a miracle.

What caused this monumental event, you ask? Well, it wasn't spoken words that moved me, but instead a picture that flashed on the projector in accompaniment to the speech. The speaker was recounting the Biblical story of Jesus raising Lazarus, who had been dead in a tomb for 4 days. What is normally emphasized in this story is the miracle of Jesus raising a person from the dead. This time, however, the speaker chose to highlight Jesus' response to the mourning women in Lazarus' family.

When Jesus arrived at the dead man's village, Lazarus' sisters ran to Jesus and mournfully chastised him for not arriving sooner in order to heal their brother before he died. Instead of rebuking the women for their accusatory words, Jesus opened his arms, held the women, and wept with them. Alone, this story would have caught my attention, but actually seeing a depiction of Jesus holding these women and crying with them in his arms was what really touched me. The image was simple, but for some reason, it uncharacteristically moved me to tears.

There was no prerequisite to the women being allowed to fall into Jesus' arms. There was no question of their worthiness, their lifestyle or their political beliefs. There was only a warm, empathetic reception that could only be offered by one who is without judgement and full of unconditional love. Not only did he receive them into a big bear hug of comfort, he also cried on their shoulders as he felt their pain.

I have to admit that I've been feeling spiritually low lately. I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling that my spirituality is in constant ebb and flow. Sometimes I feel in-tune with God, and other times I feel quite numb. This is often the result of my own laziness in doing the things I know would keep me riding a wave of spiritual awesomeness (being in 'the tube with God' as some of my peeps in Hawaii would say.) Seeing the picture of Jesus unhesitatingly receive the two sisters into his arms made me realize that no matter how numb I feel, or how far I've strayed from his teachings, Jesus is always waiting with his arms wide open, ready to mourn with me.

It also helped me understand how unnecessary it is to engage in heated political conflict. I've been guilty of using gospel principles to justify my political beliefs. I've often tried to back my liberal views with biblical examples of what I think Jesus would do or believe. Seeing this simple picture made me understand that all of these justifications, all of this striving to prove that "I am on the right side" is inconsequential to what matters most in this life. When Lazarus' sisters ran to him, Jesus didn't say "Hey wait, did you vote for Romney or Obama?" before enveloping them into his love. He doesn't care. He just wants us to love and be loved, which seems to be the opposite of what political campaigning entails and provokes. I don't believe that Jesus would be on the campaign trail, advocating one candidate or the other. We often feel that our political views advocate our moral convictions (myself included), but I only see broken relationships, contention and hatred stemming from heated political debates. This is not WJWD. (Yes, that's a play on WWJD. Sue me.)

I think that while raising a human from the dead is a poignant display of divine power, even more important is Jesus' response to a mourning family, which spoke not to his divine nature, but his empathetic, loving character. Whether you believe Jesus is the son of God, a historically secular figure or a fictitious character, you can't deny that his message was none other than unconditional love. Religious, political, secular or make believe, I think that is the message worth spreading.