According to Facebook our offer on the house where we are living was accepted four years ago today. Within the space of a month we had decided to move, sold our house, and bought another one. While we had been thinking for some time of selling our house in the woods and moving to the city it had been a vague idea. What caused us to explore that idea seriously and then take action was the election of Donald Trump. As I look back on it, the desire was to create, feed into, an alternative story to the story represented by Trump’s election.
The election created a very strong urge in us to do something. The logical something would have been simply to increase our political involvement, but we also had the sense that what was happening in the country would not be met by politics as usual. We needed to oppose it with our lives rather than only by political action. In our case that took the surprising form of moving to a different house.
Looking back, I can see that the impulse driving us was rooted in what is expressed in the prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
The beauty of it is that we couldn’t have put it this way at the time; that is, it was not a decision of the articulate mind and logic but of the inarticulate heart. Our sense was that everything had changed and we needed to change, too, but how? We needed to be in a place of community for these times, rather than isolated in the woods. We needed to increase our involvement with people both like us and different from us. We needed to exercise our gifts, whatever they were, in a slightly different setting.
This was the urge. The urge included, at our age, the logical step of downsizing to a smaller house in a location of greater convenience.
And opportunity for change presented itself to us once we started acting on the urge: our house sold quickly so we had to buy another one quickly. But this particular opportunity negated that logical step of downsizing and caused us to buy an even bigger house. Why? Because it was the only one available, in the right place, and because it was elegant. We hadn’t counted on making yet another move based on beauty. The house in the woods had been that. We thought this time we were being idealistic and practical. The mind said whaaa? But the heart said yes! to the house that we had already named the Pink Lady by the time our offer was accepted. And we found idealistic motives to attach to the impulse—we could exercise hospitality in the big dining room, we could host visiting family or foreign friends or maybe even unhoused people or refugees (ha) in all those extra bedrooms. We could make this corner of the historic district more beautiful by tearing up the invasives on the large lot and putting in a garden. . . .
It is really surprising how setting our hearts in the direction of this vague vision has revealed, unerringly, each next step so that we have indeed created our own version of an alternative story to what is happening on the political scene. I find so many examples of how the prayer of St. Francis has played out in our lives, uncannily, in the past four years. It isn’t different from the total arc of our lives but Trumpism has provided the stark foil, exposing plenty of hate, despair, injury, darkness, and sadness to . . . counteract? Heal? Live against? So many opportunities to do this have come our way. Fortunately, we haven’t gotten to the dying part yet except metaphorically, with everything we’ve let go of in the pandemic.
I do not blame Trump supporters or feel the need to understand why people were, and still are, swept up in the madness. And I am not bragging about superior instincts or pretending I haven’t made mistakes and sometimes fed the other side of the ledger. Rather, I am greatly humbled by how the truth of this prayer has played out in my life. The work of the Holy Spirit seems to be this combination of urge and opportunity, once you point your urges in the general direction of Love. I highly recommend it.
Where has Love led you in the last four years?