Reading Isaiah as the Nation Waits | Sojourners

Reading Isaiah as the Nation Waits

It was a fitful night of what I can only generously describe as sleep. Maybe you can relate. I drifted off to sleep early, only to be awakened at midnight by my wife, who had received the latest election alert on her phone. My 7- and 9-year-old sons were also on edge, worried about my day trip to Philadelphia and showing an uncanny degree of interest in the constant news coverage.

Last night reminded me of the truism that no one likes to wait. In fact, most of us despise waiting, particularly for the really important stuff. Waiting, it seems, is against our nature. Think about how troubling it is to wait for the results of a medical test, especially amid our ongoing experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic. Imagine the panic you would feel if you couldn’t trust the lab work because it was rushed, giving you false or unclear results.

Yesterday, and throughout the past month, a record-setting number of Americans braved long lines and waited to cast their vote in what has felt like the most consequential election in our lifetimes. I had the honor of serving for a half day as a poll chaplain at polling sites in north Philadelphia and was deeply inspired to see so many people, young and old, wait patiently in the blistery morning cold to cast their votes and exercise what Congressman John Lewis often referred to as a “sacred right.”

Today, our nation is in an amped-up state of waiting. But we need to remember that this was all foretold. Many of us feared that despite what polls were telling us, this would be a razor-thin election for our deeply divided nation. Media pundits and polling experts told us that in battleground states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Wisconsin there would be a “red mirage” — with numbers showing President Donald Trump ahead early in the process — since poll workers couldn’t start counting and reporting on the massive number of mail-in votes until Election Day. Early this morning, Trump exploited that mirage to prematurely and recklessly declare victory and make continued, baseless claims of voter fraud associated with mail-in voting.

We must fairly and accurately count every vote because that is what the law requires and that is what a healthy democracy guarantees. Otherwise the results will be illegitimate and our democracy will take an irreparable blow.

One of my favorite scriptures, particularly in times of duress and uncertainty, is from the prophet Isaiah, who wrote:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. —Isaiah 40: 28-31, New King James

Last night, I experienced everything from anguish that racism was seemingly not enough of a deal breaker for far too many white Americans, to measured hopefulness and everything in between. If you experienced the same roller coaster night filled with a jumbled mixture of emotions, you too are in need of an extra dose of strength this morning and into this week. Isaiah’s reminder to wait on the Lord in times like this does not mean that we sit on our hands or stand on the sidelines. As Jim Wallis and I wrote yesterday, this moment demands both vigilance and calm. We must continue organizing, speaking out, strategizing, and acting with courage and conviction as we insist that every vote is counted and our democratic process is protected — because our faith tells us that every voter is made in the image of God and our democracy hinges on “one person, one vote.” Fortunately, through the efforts of initiatives like Lawyers and Collars/Turnout Sunday, our nation prevented and deterred widespread voter intimidation and violence. But we must continue to uncover and report the many incidents of voter suppression that took place around the country. You can sign up for our daily Truth and Action Round-up to get the latest reliable information on the state of the race and how you can faithfully respond.

These hours and days of waiting lend us an opportunity to renew our strength, which we will need to either defend legitimate results or to resist illegitimate ones if the process of counting every vote is subverted by the courts or naked partisan ambition.

In these hours and days of waiting, we can also mount up on wings as an eagle. This will lift our spirits above the here and now and enable us to get a better and broader view of what lies ahead and what God is calling us to do as disciples in this season.

Finally, as a former sprinter and now aging distance runner, I’m always deeply inspired by Isaiah’s closing promise, that if we wait upon the Lord “we will run and not grow weary, walk and not faint.” The road to a radically more inclusive and just America that increasingly models the beloved community has been and will continue to be a long and arduous one, but if we continue to run it together, tapping into God’s limitless strength and knowing that by faith ultimately the race has already been won, nothing is impossible — and we will prevail.

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