America

Yesterday morning I received an email from a travel company, asking this question: "Given the outcome of the American Presidential election, will you be reconsidering any future plans to travel to the United States?"

My knowledge of American politics is limited. I don't fully understand the voting system or how the government is structured and I am not qualified to comment on the political or global implications of this decision. Therefore, I won't.

Instead, let me tell you about some Americans I know.

I have a friend who writes stories about rabbits. In the face of the overwhelming uncertainty facing our world, you may think stories are not important. I disagree. These rabbits live in a world that is under attack. Almost overnight, they find themselves thrust into a fight they didn't ask for. The battle is long and often painful and the rabbits are pushed almost beyond their ability to endure. Yet, despite the breaking and the scars, they discover that the things they believed in theory are proved true under fire. Their story breathes strength into my legs, not just because it is beautiful, but because it is an echo of something true.

I have another friend who has the remarkable ability to craft words and music, creating songs that get to the heart of this broken world we live in, naming the pain while at the same time holding out hope. Yet another who uses his musical ability to help children engage with the truth of Scripture, laying a foundation of hope that will impact their entire understanding of the world.

This year, I met a new friend whose ability to strip bare her pain and hold it out with open hands is astonishing. Instead of hiding in safety, she chooses instead to gift others with the knowledge that they are not alone.

Then there are the people who wield beauty as a weapon of war. They pour it with abandon into their writing, into their homes, their gardens, their meals and their friendships. They plant vegetables and raise bees and keep chickens. They welcome children into their homes and invite guests to their table and write letters and tell jokes. Refusing to despair, they look for the beautiful things and celebrate them, however small they may be.

I believe that these storytellers, poets, musicians, artists and dreamers will have a vital role to play in the coming months. They won't always get it right but I believe that, despite the temptation to indulge in bitter diatribe, they will make the difficult choices. They will offer help to those who are struggling. They will welcome and love people who would otherwise be left without hope. They will weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. They will be silent when there are no words to say and they will speak when the powerful run out of answers. I don't believe it will be easy. They will fight and they will be wounded but they will not be overwhelmed. 

I know this because I have seen them sit around tables, unique in their diversity, telling tales of a Kingdom that is coming. Loving, forgiving and crying with both grief and laughter. I have listened to the certainty in their voices as they encourage one another to hope. The thing is, Donald Trump may soon be their president but he will never be their King. 

We know that this world we live in is just a shadow of the one to come but sometimes it takes the battle to prove it true. If all the uncertainty of this past year has taught us anything, maybe it will be a reminder that this world is not going to last forever. Not America, not Europe and not any of the other powers that jostle for control in our shrinking world. That knowledge brings great freedom.

Will I continue to travel to the United States? Of course I will. If it was possible, and I thought my presence would bring any comfort or encouragement to my friends, I would go today. In the meantime, I will be praying for them. I will be praying that somehow, despite all the voices they are hearing, they will be able to pick out the one voice they recognise. That they will be brave enough to spend more time in God's Word than they do on social media, cultivating wisdom, humility and peace rather than anger and despair. Perhaps most importantly, I will be praying that the things they know to be true will sink down deep and give them the courage to be daring with their love, offering hope freely and without fear to all those who need it.