Choosing My Side – Divisions, Lent, and Healing

by Melissa Taft
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by Donna Chacko

The last few years have left me feeling deeply distressed about the many divisions in our country and confused about my role. I’ve wondered if this is how folks felt during other times of social and political upheaval—like before the civil war or leading up to World War II. I was deeply moved several years ago when I read The Cost of Discipleship. Author Dietrich Bonhoeffer vividly describes the unbearable angst of many Germans as they faced the moral dilemma of choosing sides.

Rather than taking a strong public stance on the various issues over which we are divided in the US, I’ve tried to listen, understand, and encourage others to do the same. Every day I encounter conflicting views regarding Covid-19, government policies, politics, justice, and morality. My unease arises from feeling uncertain if I am following God’s will. I ask myself if I lack courage to do more. I ponder how and why good people and followers of Jesus stand firmly on both sides of the issues? Is this paradox the result of disinformation that leads to false conclusions? Are we unable to accept the truth or even know what it is? Is mass psychosis the problem, when a large group of people becomes convinced of a truth and reinforces it within the group until it is irrefutable? Or, maybe too much information is suffocating us, and we simply cannot think clearly. 

Regarding Covid-19, each side of the vaccination debate has proponents who feel the other side is deluded, selfish, or even evil. I am vaccinated and support vaccinations, but I must share that I deeply love and respect two people who have chosen to remain unvaccinated. These relationships have altered my reactions to others who are unvaccinated and helped me to be less judgmental.

In this era of division, fear, and even hatred, what does Jesus want us to do? In scripture we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves and forgive seven times seventy.  But how do we do this when we are so confused that we feel disoriented or so hurting that we are immobilized? I was stirred by these powerful words of Desmond Tutu:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” 

But I see good people on both sides—people trying to do what they are convinced is the right thing. It seems that choosing the right side isn’t always easy.

Based on my absolute trust in my loving God, here is what I will do in order to be sure I’m always on the right side, the side of Jesus.

  • First, I will accept, and remind myself every day, that I am only in charge of my own thoughts, words, and behavior.
  • Second, I will listen more attentively to God’s voice and recommit to trust him unconditionally. I realize that only then can I surrender to him all my confusion and doubts.
  • Third, I will obey his call to a period of prayer and fasting by observing a more serious Lent than I usually do. My observance will consist of a reenergized version of my usual spiritual practices along with a first-time commitment to fasting.

Fasting has never been my thing. It usually gives me a headache, so I long ago concluded God didn’t want me to fast. But two months ago I made a new friend, Ginny, at church. She mentioned that her husband, Jay W. Richards, had written a book on fasting called Eat, Fast, Feast: Heal Your Body While Feeding Your Soul-A Christian Guide to Fasting. I just finished reading this unique and information-packed book. It reminded me of the benefits of fasting, gave me different ideas on how to fast, and convinced me I should begin a fasting practice for Lent. God probably had this all planned when he arranged for me to meet Ginny at church.

In the bible, Jesus healed people and performed miracles. In 2022 he needs us to be his healing instruments so together we can heal our nation. Every morning when I say the Prayer of St. Francis, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace..,”  I remind myself that I must make myself available to be used by God as his instrument.”  I believe a faithful Lenten observance will help each of us be a better instrument of God’s healing power.

Imagine this Easter if every Christian in the US was able to embrace every other Christian as members of the same Body of Christ and as brothers and sisters in Christ?  Imagine how this would narrow the divide in the US— there would be less space between us for hate and bigotry to grow. 

I invite you to join me this Lent. Let us open ourselves fully to Jesus and his healing touch. I plan to add periodic comments to this blog during Lent to describe my experiences, especially with fasting.

 Do you feel the confusion and angst that I have described? Do you observe Lent or practice fasts? I would love to hear from you, and I think the other readers will as well.

God bless each of you.

Photo by CongerDesign on Pixabay

Donna is a retired medical doctor and author of Amazon bestseller Pilgrimage: A Doctor’s Healing Journey. She lives in Maryland where she promotes health and faith through her ministry

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Melissa Taft February 24, 2022 - 12:45 pm

Editor’s note, here is Donna’s first comment: Hi friends, I have a week to go to formalize my plan. But, so far I plan to: 1. Fast on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and maybe once a week where I either skip a meal or eat very limited/simple meals for 2 meals a day, normal for the 3rd. 2. Abstain from coffee–have done it before, getting by with tea. 3. Do “reverse fasting” by adding positive things…more prayer and acts of kindness and charity. I plan to get more specific and to write this all down before Ash Wednesday. Have you thought about a fasting plan for yourself?

donna chacko March 4, 2022 - 8:13 am

I promised to add a follow up as to how Lent was going. I ended up with a plan similar to the above, but in terms of eating I will concentrate more on abstaining from specific foods and between meal snacks than on skipping meals. BUT the day before Ash Wednesday I listened to a video on Twitter by a big time and popular Twitter user announcing he was deleting his Twitter acct.–and explaining the ways it has been very bad for his mental health. Yikes. I know I check my phone for SM/news/emails etc. way too many times and that it is unhealthy. So I added a plan to reign in my phone use–both for Lent and for my mental health. Are you too hooked to your phone? Hope you are having a meaningful Lent. Donna

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