Author: Nicole Speer
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. ~John 1:5
When I decided to run for public office, I knew I was embarking on a journey that would test my faith. I expected the hardest part would be strengthening my ability to extend compassion toward those who do not extend me the same favor: the online trolls, the stranger who yelled “you’re a f$*#& idiot” at me recently in a shopping center, the people whose lies and misinformation spread fear rather than love.
Maybe because I was prepared to encounter this type of hostility, most of these events haven’t overly bothered me.
What I didn’t prepare for, that has been incredibly challenging, was the way this journey would open my eyes even wider to the scope of the social, environmental, political, economic, and infrastructure challenges our communities are facing amid a pandemic, growing income inequality, a climate emergency, and rising white supremacy, fascism, and autocracy.
I also didn’t prepare for the fact that building so many relationships with hundreds of new people every week would make it even harder to hold all this knowledge. Every new connection I make binds me to an ever-growing web of community. Now, it isn’t just unknown strangers who are at risk from these intractable challenges. It is thousands of people I love, and all the people they love, and on and on.
The more connections I make, the more my heart expands. But the more my heart expands, the more it breaks. I wonder if this is the reason so many people in positions of power choose to worship money and power rather than love. It is hard to hold all this knowledge and sorrow.
For in much wisdom is much vexation, and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow. ~Ecclesiastes 1:18
Rather than turning away from love as the process of loving becomes more challenging, I’ve been working on throwing caution to the wind and finding ways to love more deeply. I’ve focused on seeing people’s humanity even if they don’t see mine, engaging in conversation with people whose views contradict my own, and trusting that those whose voices are typically un- or under-represented in decision-making spaces know what they need better than I do.
As a white woman with some privilege, that last part has been the hardest to do. It sounds simple but it takes an intentional effort for me to avoid second-guessing recommendations from communities with less privilege than I have. Because I have the power and privilege to make sure my needs and the needs of those who are like me are prioritized, it is far too easy to think that when people with less privilege have an opinion that differs from my own, it is because they don’t know as much as I know. But I am learning that when I prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable on their terms, I not only strengthen my humility, I strengthen my capacity to love.
I never imagined that campaigning would give me the capacity to love more deeply and authentically, but as I shape myself into someone who can shine more light into the world, I am finding that the constant sorrow I have encountered becomes easier to manage. Like the darkness John talks about, my sorrow isn’t going away, but finding the limits of my ability to love others and pushing past them makes it easier for me to avoid being overcome.
Local elections are happening in the next few weeks so wherever you are living, be sure to vote! And then get your friends and family members across the country to vote as well. Local elections have a massive impact on all our lives, and especially on the lives of the most vulnerable in our communities. In the same way voting can spread hatred and fear, we can also use it to spread love.
God who makes a way out of no way, make us more capable of love, especially when it is hard.