Following President Trump’s inaugural address yesterday, I toyed with the idea of writing a letter and posting it. It would have gone something like this:
The new President of the USA does not speak for me. Please don’t judge me or my neighbors harshly because we’re from the USA. You and I have gotten along quite well so far. In fact, I wouldn’t be who I am today without you. I’d like to think I’ve contributed a bit to your life, as well.
If you’re reading this, I know you won’t treat me poorly because I’m from the USA. Still, a cold chill went up my spine when I heard President Trump’s angry determination to put America first. And last, it seems, since there weren’t any other countries that came in second or even third.
Thank you for your friendship and hospitality. I sincerely trust this ‘new’ approach to the rest of the world won’t stop us from welcoming each other and working together on things that matter for all of us.
So I didn’t post this letter. Instead, I’m thinking about the storm of uncertainty, confusion, disillusionment, anger and fear that surround Trump’s presidency. Where do I stand? How do I keep my footing? Especially since I don’t know where the storm is going.
Ever since the presidential election results were announced, I’ve thought about William Cowper (‘Cooper’). He was a poet and hymn writer from Britain. Born in 1731; died in 1800. His life was filled with hard times such as the death of his mother and most of his siblings, bullying at school, and his father’s refusal to allow him to marry his sweetheart who happened to be his cousin.
As an adult Cowper struggled with deep depression and manic episodes. He attempted suicide on several occasions, was put in an institution and declared insane. He was also a prolific writer of hymns, poetry and occasional prose.
Two stanzas of one of his hymns, possibly the last he wrote, keep going through my mind. In the hymn a fierce storm rages. Surprisingly, God doesn’t calm the storm; God uses it to do something else. Something mysterious.
In order to do this, God steps smack into the middle of the storm and rides it like a chariot. This could be Cowper’s personal storm or our personal storms. It could also be our current political storm, with its global implications.
Cowper’s words help focus me. They’re also calming, reassuring and challenging. We haven’t been left to our own devices.
Here are the stanzas I’ve been thinking about and singing to myself. You’ll find all stanzas here.
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm. . . .
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
William Cowper, published by John Newton in Twenty-six Letters on Religious Subjects, 1774
Without ignoring the storm, Cowper’s hymn invites me to focus on what God is going to do. Not without, but by way of the storm. Blessings will fall. Not on a calm sea, but in the midst of stormy adversity. A sweet flower will bloom from what seems to be a bitter bud.
My part is to keep the faith so that I can recognize and celebrate the work of our Creator in the midst of what seems a chaotic mess.
Thanks for reading and listening.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 January 2017
Quotation found at QuoteHD.com