I really hate to break this to all our young voters, but the current election cycle is not the most important one in our history. We are in no greater existential national crisis today than we were in the years immediately after the Declaration of Independence was signed. Or around 1812. Or the 1860 election.
In my lifetime, I must include the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan (which some are arguing we are just now seeing its full effect). Kennedy was important as well. And Barak Obama is up there as well.
There will be those who may react a little here with an argument that begins, “Well, we have never. . .” Ok, you are correct. That is always true from one perspective or another. It may also be true that what is the most important election for one group of people is not so much for another. A good historian can choose what might seem a minor event and relate it to an event that changes the world years later.
I grow a little weary of hearing that every election is the most important one in our lifetimes. Now, let me say this. It is true. Maybe not in the sense that campaign slogans intend it, but it is the one we have now. It is the one in front of us. It is the only we can do anything about. Hence, the most important.
In life, we cannot know which are the most important decisions. There may be some that rise quickly to the top — choosing a spouse, a vocation, where to live. Even these are based on other prior decisions (not being intentional is a decision) that are not always made by us.
Nor can we know how one event or decision will affect the next. The best we can do is to look back and piece together a coherent story. This is the point of some retreats that focus on finding how God has worked in our lives. Every time I have done this there has been some decision or event that seemed small at the time but proved pivotal.
I am not a physicist, nor am I a philosopher, but there are a couple principles at work here that I think apply to all of life in some way. In nuclear physics there is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. My liberal arts brain thinks of it this way — apologies to you scientists who know better. With very small particles we can know where that particle is or we can know its momentum (mass x velocity), but we cannot, with certainty, know both. It is too much information for us — just beyond our reach.
Another principle can be expressed by thinking about how humans came to be. We can accept that we are made by the hand of God from the earth and not understand the process. Or we can accept that we are evolved through a process suggested by some and still be in the dark as to the moving force that began it all.
There are believers who accept some sort of evolutionary process, but we are still faced with the impossible question of time. There is either an unknowable power or life-force (which I believe to be God) or an unknowable amount of time. We cannot know it all.
All this uncertainty and the weight of our decisions is what I believe makes it necessary for us to tether our lives to something beyond ourselves. It will keep us grounded and as Paul says in Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.” Making decisions based on teachings and faith that has been revealed over perhaps six millennia can help us make better decisions.
Ecclesiastes tells us “I have seen the business that God has given to the sons of men to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man’s mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; also that it is God’s gift to man that every one should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11-13).
Every moment of our lives has meaning. That meaning is created by our faith (or lack thereof). They all have their roles to play (they are all beautiful in their time). For those with challenging backgrounds this is a long, transformative journey to make. Christians who have not suffered so need to remember this. We do not know the most important moments of our lives.
And yet, I would suggest, it is this one, right now. It is the one you have.