It took a harshly worded bumper sticker to remind me that my children can read now. Four years ago, during the last contentious election cycle, we could blissfully drive by all the stickers and campaign signs without giving them a second thought. Now, though, signs calling out one candidate in favor of another raise questions—difficult ones—from the backseat.
What does that mean? Why don’t they like them? Do we like them?
And my own internal questions: Is it really time for another presidential election, for heightened division and angry rhetoric and damaged relationships? Didn’t we just do this?
Whenever the pandemic anniversary comes around, I find myself asking what our family has learned over the last year. Listing the gains helps me feel like we’ve redeemed the time, the challenges, somehow. This year, I’m making a similar list on the eve of another election cycle. What did we learn four years ago, eight years ago, that can guide us through this season with more patience, more grace?
Two words come to mind: humility and perspective. To get through this year graciously, I need to first make the decision to address the issues at hand with humility. I will aim to tell my children that neither I nor the group I identify most closely with have all the answers. I will remind them and myself that most positions, most deeply held beliefs, have a story behind them. There are reasons people feel the way they do, and understanding the reasons may be the first step in walking through a contentious season like Jesus would.
Secondly, I will try to keep an appropriate perspective on this and all future elections. History does not hinge on what happens in November. Even if textbooks eventually cite this election as a milestone for our country, we know what it really signals: four more years, or however many, in which to take small steps toward more humility, more understanding. Less self-aggrandizing agendas, more difficult, sacrificial decisions.
In short, more opportunities to look more like Christ and less like us.
Those are the things, in fewer words, that I’ll attempt to tell our girls when they ask questions in the car. We all bring stories to this season, and some of them are hard. Jesus would care well for those stories. We should too.
Meredith Day Flynn is a wife and mother of two living in Springfield. She writes on the intersection of faith, family, and current culture.