It takes several miles for an aircraft carrier to make a U-Turn,” my naval officer father often stated. The applied lesson always involved patience and respect for what is being turned.
Following the midterm elections, Republicans, just like when turning a massive ship, face a soul-searching moment that requires patience and respect to turn America’s direction. All too many excitedly hoped for a big pendulum swing to help the country change course. But since America took years to get here, it stands to reason that the country will take time to change. While election analysts will foster lengthy debates, criticism, and pundit careers, many Americans are unsettled – if not outright afraid.
To paraphrase Donald Trump, “there are good people on both sides” of that fear.
Watching the election and the ensuing spin, a passage in the book of Jeremiah (chapter29) addresses a similar issue. As the exiled Israelites struggled following their captivity by the Babylonians, they cried out for God to free them and return them home. Yet the prophet Jeremiah delivered an unexpected response from God to His chosen people.
In essence, God instructed His people to settle down, build houses, plant crops, get married, have children, and have grandchildren. Not only were they to stay put, but they were even told to: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7 (NASB)
That decree from God must have been hard to swallow for people hoping to be rescued. In the same chapter, God also stated that they would be returned at His appointed time and for them to trust that He “knows the plans He has” for them.
Many Americans resonate with the feelings of wanting to be rescued, restored, and returned to their way of life. But like ancient Israel, America’s weakening did not occur overnight, nor will it change overnight. The restoration required patience and trust.
Is that a model for America?
Before our country can repair, heal, or grow, it would seem consistent with Biblical and secular history that an honest reckoning must occur. As long as we consider our neighbor the enemy and hire someone else to fight them, the country’s healing remains doubtful.
Visiting wounded warriors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center some years ago, my wife, Gracie, walked over to a soldier missing his right leg and lying on a table working with a physical therapist. Greeting him, the soldier rudely snarled at her. The physical therapist awkwardly tried to smooth things over and told the soldier that he might want to listen to Gracie.
Swearing, he brusquely communicated his aversion.
Although stunned, Gracie quickly composed herself and, holding a nearby railing, propped her right prosthetic foot (encased in a beautiful shoe, I might add) next to his head. He’d only seen her from the waist up, but his eyes turned to witness Gracie balancing on her left prosthetic leg.
“You’re not the only amputee in here, big guy,” she said while staring at him.
As the two of them locked eyes, the soldier in him nodded, and they talked for a while. He shared with her that he lost his leg from friendly fire, and his resentment from being hurt by his team remained apparent.
America has a lot of friendly fire wounds right now – and an ample supply of resentment.
Showing her own weaknesses and demonstrating the courage to overcome them, Gracie confronted someone drowning in resentment over wounds that should not have happened. In the process, they both walked further down the path of recovery.
Like the Israelites of old and even like a massive aircraft carrier, it doesn’t appear that America’s challenges will be reversed anytime soon. Authentic leadership often means diligence in what’s at our hand to do while pointing a hurting neighbor to safety. In the face of a monumental challenge, settling for small victories while honestly assessing disappointments equals a worthy achievement. In the process, we chip away at the resentment of friendly fire wounds we’ve incurred – or caused.
Winning hearts and minds requires greater discipline than rhetoric – and campaigning for an idea is more persuasive than competing against a person – or a grievance. Governor Ron DeSantis’ overwhelming success at uniting Florida proved both points.
It’s also helpful to remember that true victory isn’t simply beating one’s enemy – it’s triumphing over our own wounds and weaknesses to lift another. Enough of those victories could even heal a nation.
- Peter Rosenberger hosts the nationally syndicated radio program, Hope for the Caregiver. www.hopeforthecaregiver.com
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