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The next presidential election is still six months away, and I’m already growing weary of it. I’ve lived through the leadership of just four different presidents, but from what I can remember about those campaign seasons, they were nowhere near as intense as this one has been.
No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, I think we can all agree that this race has been unique. Social media has added an unwieldy but powerful dimension to the process, the debates have been dramatic, and the many candidates we started with have now dropped to very few. It’s been a lot to handle.
And there are still six more months to go before we even cast our final votes.
If we keep going like we’re going, we will lose our minds, I’m pretty sure of it. Even now, the simple mention of “Trump” or “Hillary” launches heated conversations about what’s best for our nation moving forward.
We all have opinions. We all have deeply-rooted beliefs. We all have our idea of what America needs. We will never all agree.
So, what can we do? How can we stay sane for these next six months as tensions build and the media bombards us with updates?
We get away from it all. Even if just for a few minutes.
An artist and author I follow online tweeted this yesterday, and I couldn’t hit “retweet” fast enough:
Gonna be a toxic election. Take care. Spend time away from screens. Cook. Draw. Write. Play music. Walk. Swim. Dance. Color. Read books. — Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) May 5, 2016
I read that, and I feel a wave of calm wash over me. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype, so easy to get swept away by all the emotionally-charged messages coming at me from every angle… but we need to remember that this election is not the end-all, be-all of our existence.
Yes, it is important. Yes, it will make history. Yes, we will all be affected by it, and our nation will change because of it.
But there is more to life than this election. There are things that matter more in our lives than who will be our next president. There are things that give us life, that remind us of why we are here, that point us back to the true Ruler of all and remind us to focus first and foremost on Him.
We will lose our minds if this election is all we think about, talk about, debate about, and focus on for the next six months.
My challenge to you is exactly what Kleon said: get away from the screens. Get away from the noise. Recharge however you recharge best. Find ways to worship every day. Give your mind a rest from all the talk of primaries and conventions and agendas.
Read a book that has nothing to do with government, America, or politics. Grab one you’ve never heard of, or one with a beautiful cover, or one that you can totally get through in one sitting. Get swept away by a brand new story and let your mind wander wild.
Create something new. There’s something that feels both humbling and empowering about making things with your hands. Whether you are taking ingredients and transforming them into a meal or turning paint and water into a piece of art, there is so much to be learned from the process of creating. Let go of every desire for perfection, and let yourself get messy and make mistakes and find freedom in it.
Connect with people who ground you and inspire you. Bonus points if you do this without any technology involved! Grab coffee with a friend and catch up about your lives. Invite a neighbor over for dinner. Visit your family and bring a puzzle or board game for everyone to do together. Remember that these relationships are key, and that they matter more than any election result.
Find a way to play. Do we even remember what that word means as adults? Here’s a quick refresher: “engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.” When was the last time you truly played? Maybe for you, this looks like creating or painting or cooking, or maybe it looks like getting down on the floor with your kids, or like tossing a ball for your dog in the park. Maybe it looks like coloring in an adult coloring book, or building something with a brand-new pack of Legos you grab at the store, or planting new seeds in a garden. Do something just for enjoyment, and be reminded of what joy really feels like.
Worship the Lord, our King of kings. When we give our attention and energy to politicians day in and day out, we are putting them on a pedestal they don’t deserve and aren’t worthy of. We forget that Jesus Christ is our Lord, and that He has saved us. A president will never be able to save us like He did. We need to remember to put God first and foremost, and to focus on Him daily as we learn to put deeper trust into His will for us and our nation. Devoting intentional time for prayer every day will help keep us centered on His life-giving love and remind us He is always in control and at work in our world.
These next six months, may this be our prayer:
Lord, we want to put You first. Bring us back to the heart of worship, even when our world feels frenzied and messy. Forgive us for the times we have put politics or politicians above You and made idols of unworthy things. Remind us that You are good and that Your plans are perfect. We know that You are trustworthy, that You always have been and always will be, and we want to be rooted and established in Your love above all else. Thank you for the world you have given us, for this nation we live in, and for the people surrounding us. Show us how to love well, how to be patience, how to give grace, how to live like Jesus, and how to find meaning in the midst of the chaos. We surrender our lives to you, knowing that You are Creator and Lord of all. May we seek You, find You, and come to know You intimately. May You be our focus in these coming weeks and months. In Your perfect and holy name, Amen.