Everyone in our family voted on Tuesday, even my three-year-old daughter. She, along with her classmates, voted for cupcakes. Chocolate or vanilla. Since she is my daughter and was therefore born with a constant craving for chocolate, she was confident in her vote and that the outcome would result in eating a delicious, chocolaty cupcake with her classmates on Wednesday afternoon. I didn’t do much to prepare her for the unexpected outcome of vanilla being the winner. She was giddy and energized when I dropped her off, ready to let her voice be heard.
I was equally energized to let my voice be heard. I waited in line for over an hour to cast my vote. Unlike my unabashed loyalty for chocolate over vanilla, I am not registered as either Republican or Democrat. Neither party represents my beliefs in full, so I tend to vote for candidates on both sides of the aisle. I care about issues close to the heart of both parties, and this means I often vote in a way in which I have to sacrifice some of the things I care about when I fill in that tiny bubble next to a name. This election was no different. I did not agree with everything this candidate stood for, but I was hopeful that I would be able to celebrate the results that would allow me to be proud to call this person our president. I was confident as I walked home with my “I Voted” sticker proclaiming that I had exercised that most significant right.
When I picked Norah up several hours later she did not have her usual beaming smile on her face. She still ran to me, but when she reached my arms she hung her head and, with tears brimming uttered, “Vanilla won, Mom.” I felt her shock and sadness. Vanilla? Really? How?
I didn’t prepare myself for the shocking outcome of the election that had the potential of producing our nation’s first woman president and rejecting the idea that bullying is an acceptable way of getting your point across. I climbed in bed at midnight with my head hung and tears brimming. Him? Really? How?
In the time between picking Norah up from school on Tuesday and sitting on the couch watching the election results roll in that night, I had thought about what I would say to her on our walk to school on Wednesday morning regarding the results of her class election. I had planned to tell her to be gracious and kind when accepting her vanilla cupcake. And I did. I just didn’t realize how much I would need to be telling myself the same thing.
I woke up early on Wednesday morning after just a few hours of broken sleep. After a quick workout I reached for my Bible and flipped to Philippians. I cannot change the results of this election, but I can always work on my own heart. These verses have become my post-election prayer for myself: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Phil. 2:3-4). The whole chapter was encouraging, but these specific verses were my call to action.
As I helped Norah pull her uniform over her head, I told her I was also feeling shocked and sad, but we have to honor the outcome. And more importantly, we have to strive for understanding, especially when we disagree. I gave her a few questions she could ask her friends while they dug in to their sugary treats. “Why did you choose vanilla?” “What are some things you like about vanilla cupcakes?” I told her she needed to really listen. She doesn’t have to change her mind and choose vanilla next time, but she does need to seek to understand her classmates, who she really loves. I was training myself to ask these same questions. “Why did you choose him?” “What do you like about him?” I’m not asking for my mind to be changed, but I really do want to understand, because I know there are people I love dearly who voted for him and I have a deep desire to understand the people I love.
I have tremendous respect for the office of the president. We have never had a president I agree with completely, and I don’t expect we ever will. However, I have always respected their character. I have always looked at our president and felt he was someone I could point children towards to see how to treat others at the very least.
At this point, I cannot say that about our next president, although I am praying that his treatment of others changes in a way that when my daughter is a little older, I can encourage her to watch a speech without fear that she will hear him saying sickening things about women, derogatory things about people of other faiths, or racist things about people who don’t look like him. I hope she will be able to watch his actions without seeing him mock people with disabilities or encourage people to use violence instead of their voice. This doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for in the leader of our country.
Right now, Norah is not asking many questions about the character of our next president, and I am thankful for that. But someday she will. When she does I will be honest and then I will point her to Jesus. When Jesus was walking this earth there were political leaders with whom he did not agree. These leaders did not change how he treated people. He was still motivated by love. Regardless of who is in the White House, we always have the choice of how we treat others. I am saddened that I cannot point my daughter to the next leader of our nation as an example of this, but I am thankful that there are many others who are worthy of emulating. I am especially thankful that Jesus tells us how important and valued every single human life is, so we will look to him to remember our own value and worth as well as the value and worth of those we interact with every day.
On Wednesday morning during breakfast, a song started playing that motivated Norah to get out of her chair and start dancing. Through a mouth full of peanut butter smothered waffles, she smiled and said, “Mom! This is my song!” Then she started singing. “We are more, more, more than conquerors, through Him who loves us, through Him who loves us…. What can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus?” I smiled and she climbed back in her chair and looked at me, “God is bigger than everything, right Mom?”
Yes, my sweet girl. He is bigger than everything. And His love does conquer hate. So we will keep our hope in Him and Him alone, just as we would have had she been eating a chocolate cupcake post-preschool election or if I was telling her that for the first time ever, a woman was president. I voted for a leader – a flawed human leader, but my hope was never in either candidate. It was, and always will be, in Jesus.