We in the Parks household are in a state of mourning over the end of the Olympics. Like all good Americans, we put in at least 50 hours over the past 17 days, watching every event we could find on NBC's network coverage. I fell in love with the Olympics in 1992, leading up to the Barcelona games. I was a nine-year-old, obsessed with gymnastics, and my dad would bring home copies of Newsweek, US News & World Report, and Time for me to cut out pictures and articles about Kim Zmeskal, Shannon Miller, and the first men's Dream Team for my Olympic scrapbook.
I'm not sure I've been this excited about the summer games since Barcelona. Atlanta was amazing, in Sydney I was glued to all the swimming events, and I enjoyed what I saw of Athens, Beijing, and London. But this year was different. The Olympics came at a time when our nation desperately needed a distraction. We needed something to unify us, to bring us together in a common pursuit. Seeing Ledecky, Biles, Manuel, Phelps, and many others win gold after gold was such a joy. But perhaps more impactful was seeing Kerri Walsh Jennings lose an Olympic volleyball match for the first time ever, take responsibility for the loss without blaming anyone else, and then bounce back to win a tough bronze medal match. These are the moments I want my kids to see. This is the beauty of humility we can learn from sports.
So I've got a little post-Olympic letdown on this Monday morning, and I'm forced to remember that we're in the middle of an election year that has been anything but an example of humility. It was nice to turn all of that off for a couple of weeks, but reality necessitates that I confront some things the election is bringing out in my own heart.
A couple of weeks ago, I pulled into a parking lot and spotted a car with a bumper sticker for one of the two major party presidential candidates. I'm ashamed of my first thought about the person driving that car. I'm sad about the assumptions I made about their values and intelligence. I'm embarrassed to consider how highly I must think of myself and my own "enlightenment." I had to repent of those thoughts and ask God to help me not to make assumptions, but to try to understand those who see things differently than I do.
The closer we come to November 8, the more concerned I become not about our nation so much as about our churches. Knowing my own propensity to place blame on others, and my divisive heart, I wonder how we as the church will move ahead after an incredibly divisive election cycle. I hear and read things asking how any Christian could vote for this person or that person, or how could anyone not vote the way we think they should? We're told one way is the morally right way, leaving no room for brothers and sisters to prayerfully disagree. I've been blessed to have conversations with people with whom I disagree on the current political climate that ended with appeals to pray. I think it's okay to speak our hearts and minds on these issues, but at the end of the day, can we trust other believers to vote the way they believe God is leading them to? Are the results of the election more important than our love for one another? And how will we move forward without blaming one another for the outcome, one way or another? Do I want those with whom I disagree to see the failure of their candidate so that I will be vindicated? When was the last time I prayed for the presidential candidates and other political leaders--for their flourishing, their salvation, their families?
I ask these questions of myself more than anyone else. It's been convicting this morning to come back into reality and see my own heart in some difficult ways. But I'm not without hope. I'm motivated to pray for the church in this moment--that we might, even in disagreement, be able to come together in love, respect one another, and pray together for our nation.
Maybe this post is more for me than anyone else, but if any of these thoughts resonate with you, will you join me in praying that the church might come together and be generous with grace in this moment in our history as a nation? We serve a loving, sovereign God who has not abandoned us. Even the wind and waves obey Him (Mark 4:41). May we have the brotherly love of the Thessalonian church (I Thess. 4:9-12), who I am certain did not always agree on everything, but were known for their love for one another. What a picture that would be to the world.