We Can Do Hard Things and Survive, Together | Sojourners

We Can Do Hard Things and Survive, Together

Photo by bruno costa on Unsplash

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with my friends — black, Indigenous, people of color, disabled, LGBTQ, women — about what it takes to create change. We ask ourselves constantly if we are to be people who remain in toxic spaces so that change can eventually be born, or if we should leave those spaces and create our own.

For Christians, we are considering whether the American church can really decolonize and change, or if there is something else that must come in its place.

How much of ourselves do we give up for the sake of a larger picture? How much do we risk on hope that institutions and organizations can one day embody equity and wholeness for everyone?

America is fighting to figure out who we are. We are unmasking terrible truths, coming to terms with racist and oppressive ideals that have long been part of our foundations, and asking what change is supposed to look like.

Every presidential candidate is held under a microscope, and we are fighting to decide if they can lead a nation, if they can be trusted to care for those who have not been cared for in America. We are asking if they can bring the change we need.

But it is Women’s History Month, and we are seeing that the nation isn’t yet ready for a woman to lead us.

We are voting and grieving.
We are asking if four more years of President Trump is possible.
We are voting and celebrating.
We are continually, constantly coming to terms with ourselves and one another.

But I’m not here to give an analysis of our political state, or to tell you who I believe is best fit to run against Trump in November.

I’m here to remind you to breathe.

I’m here to quote Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, who writes these words in a life-giving essay on not giving up:

The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires … causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both — are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

I’m here because a few weeks ago, I spoke in a chapel service at a conservative university in Texas, was personally attacked in person and online, and I survived. I survived because I knew that I wasn’t alone. I knew that in that experience I joined a long line of women who have been told they aren’t enough, Indigenous women who have been called pagan, whose bodies have been sexualized based on their identity and claims of belonging.

I am on the other side of it, not because I got the outcome I wanted, but because I know that I can do hard things and survive, and that solidarity will bring us all together when things feel hopeless.

John Lewis returned to Selma recently to commemorate Bloody Sunday, and he said to the crowd with him, “We must keep the faith, keep our eyes on the prize … get in the way, get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” His whole life has been about standing in spaces where he wasn’t supposed to stand so that change could happen, and he is living, breathing solidarity every day that he continues to speak the truth.

We can survive these times, and we will do it together.

For today, go buy yourself a bouquet of flowers.
Ask the kids in your community what kind of world they want, and give them the tools to create it.
Take a nap and wake up refreshed to do the work you set out to do.
Remember that personal grief and collective grief are connected.
If you have privilege, share your resources.
If you are exhausted, tell someone.
Get off social media for a few hours.
Bake a loaf of bread.

My tribe, the Potawatomi, call ourselves the people of the place of fire. This is meaningful to me on a few levels, because we were literally the people who tended to the fires, but also because I know that there is a fire burning in me every single day that I wake up a human being, asking how to be a better one.

Rumi, the Persian poet and Sufi mystic, said, “Stay in the spiritual fire. Let it cook you.”

And that’s what we are tasked with doing today. When things get hard, we rest and ask questions. We grieve and remember that fires have to be fed so that they can burn bright, so that others can feed their fires, too.

The answers will come in our resting and in our working.

The answers will come when our collective fire burns bright.