Over the last few weeks we have heard an onslaught of accusations and allegations of sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, and sexual harassment against famous and powerful men. Power players in Hollywood, politicians, comedians and actors, and now even well-known journalists and newsmen.
As a former victim of sexual abuse, you would think that I would rejoice to see the powerful brought low for their crimes against the powerless and the helpless, for their abuse of their power and how they use their money to cover up their crimes and silence their victims.
Instead I am disheartened and hurt.
Bill Cosby was a childhood hero, a funny man who made my parents and I laugh; a man who made me believe that good old family values transcended race and economic status.
Charlie Rose was a journalist and newsman that I felt restored integrity to the trade by avoiding infotainment and sticking to the actual news, reported with honesty, focusing on what was already known and not wild conjecture.
Al Franken was a comedian whose comedy I adored (ah, Stuart Smalley…you are good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people do like you!). I tended to agree with his politics, and I respected his choice to give up a lucrative career in entertainment to enter the ugly world of politics. I had high hopes that he would bring a voice of reason to what had become a highly conservative and reactionary Congress.
All fallen…them and a dozen more.
It hurts my heart to have trusted and believed in the integrity of men who proved unworthy of my faith and my admiration. And yet…
I am reminded of the mighty statue with feet of iron and clay in Daniel 2:21-45. In this passage Daniel interprets a dream for Nebuchadnezzer, and he tells him:
“As you saw the feet and toes partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom; but some of the strength of iron shall be in it, as you saw the iron mixed with the clay. As the toes of the feet were part iron and part clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle.”
I think Daniel might actually be describing the American government as it currently stands, but that is another blog post entirely.
Traditionally, the saying “feet of clay” is meant to convey the fragility of power and the ways that the powerful often fall when their flaws and weaknesses—their feet of clay—are exposed. The weak clay, unable to hold up the gilded image of themselves they have projected to the people, breaks, and down they fall, disgraced and broken.
The mighty are often slain on a sword of their own making.
This has been weighing heavily on my heart for an entire week.
Then this morning I went to yoga. Yoga is an interesting workout because it is simultaneously active and meditative; you focus on your breath and on honoring your body and its limits while pushing that same body to the edges of its limits and holding it there.
Strength in peace and peace in strength all while honoring weakness and frailty. The perfect balance.
Our suggested intention for our practice was gratitude, and so I listed the things I am grateful for as I moved through the poses.
Family. Friends. A loving church family.
My husband. My children. The family that we have created. How that family has persisted in trial and trouble, and how we nurture each other during those times.
The health of my body. The chronic illness that keeps me humble and mindful of my limitations.
Gray hairs, and a life long enough to see them begin to sprout on my head.
Then I moved beyond the obvious and began to think of all that had been dragging me down the last few weeks. I decided to try and find gratitude even in that and was pleasantly surprised.
I am grateful to live in a nation where half the country hates the president but trusts that our nation is strong and steady enough to endure the effects of his administration and move on to elect a better/different/equally flawed leader in the next election cycle.
I am grateful to be a part of a culture that is changing and becoming unwilling to endure endemic racism and sexism. I am grateful to have born two children into a new generation that has no patience to wait for changes to slowly come over time; in their mind it must happen NOW.
I am truly grateful for a society that allows its leaders to fall, to repent, and to find grace and place in society again.
I was born in the early 1960s, a time in this country’s history when there was great social unrest: race riots; a president and his brother had been murdered; a great social leader had been assassinated. The whole country heaved and spasmed with change that lasted over several decades as people of color and women fought for equal rights and equal opportunities. It seemed like the fabric of our country was being torn into shreds.
Yet here we are, fighting even more battles as we uncover abuses of power and continued racial and sexual discrimination and abuse.
God has made us stronger than we realize, and our greatest blessing is that we can not only endure such painful change but grow and become better because of it.
So this Thanksgiving, after you express your gratitude for your obvious blessings, express a little gratitude for the mess that things seem to be at this moment because God is still working on that mess, and only God knows what good He will bring out of it.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and yours!