The Marathon of Life-long Learning.

In the last 24 hours the political life of the United States has shifted. White Nationalism was on full display, and it could no longer be denied. That morning, our President continued to talk disgrace about the election process, and proclaimed that, “you will never take back our country with weakness.” Don’t forget that in the words of introduction, “his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani addressed the crowd and called for ‘trial by combat’ against the Democrats to win the election.”

I have committed myself to be a life-long learner, and after spending the past four years within a rigorous academic institution, I learned how to critique the works of others. That is not something that comes natural to me, and even after four years I still wouldn’t claim to be good at it. I have however, learned how to embrace it, and am slowly learning how to add my voice, experience, and learnings against it.

I appreciate analogies, and for that I would like to share one. I imagine life-long learning to be a similar experience to running a marathon. It’s a commitment. It takes training, but no matter how well you trained, you’ll still need water breaks. During the race you might experience “residue,” so to speak, of kinds, and might need to take a moment to… “take a load off”. You might not get a personal record. Some of the scenery may be boring. Some moments bring a runners high, and others bring muscle burning exhaustion. To get through it, you need a community of cheerleaders. The analogy seems great, but it is important to remember that when it comes to learning, we haven’t all been training the same way- or at all- yet we all are participating in the race.

In this race, you can decide how much or how little you participate. I have decided to name it and claim it so to speak. Being an aspiring leader within the church, I can’t help but to think of the third chapter of James. “My brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, because we know that we teachers will be judged more strictly.“ (James 3:1) Being a teacher — or a leader — comes with expectations. This verse always strikes me in the chest, because I wonder whether or not I am within this “many”. I get lost in worry, knowing that what I used to think is different than the way that I think now. The things that I know now, will hopefully be building blocks to what I may think in the future. How could I possibly lead when there is so much I still do not know, and could not understand?

So what does learning have to do with what happened at the Capitol on January 6th? I have been and continue to learn about White Supremacy, and how power desperately clings on for life. (White Supremacy is the belief that those who are white should be the sole leaders of society. CLICK HERE to see what all groups were present at the capital on the 6th.) The worth of learning is only as good as the actions it leads to.

My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.” James 2 :14–17

I know we are all in different places of learning. We are learning from different contexts, and hold different subjects of values. In this knowledge, I will try to step carefully and gracefully. I am mad at President Trump and his followers. Before going on, I do not use the term “followers” and “Republicans” interchangeably, as I know that not all who claim to be Republican also claim to be a Trumper. I am, however, upset at those who refuse to hear out others. Who turn to violence in fear of loosing their power, (as seen yesterday) rather than listening to the stories and experiences of others. Yesterday President Trump neglected his duties to be a leader of the people of the United States, and unleashed his faithful to attack and undermine the democratic process. These attacks aren’t new, but this is first time many of us watch it unfold upon our screens. And I am mad that we allowed it to happen. The signs have been there. It was not surprising, but rather expected. I am sad that we have been turned against one another. That we refuse to learn from one another.

This is not a call for unity. I struggle with that term. To me, it feels steeped in colonialism, and begs for the assimilation of the oppressed. I struggle with the concept of unity, because it doesn’t honor the journey we are all already on. It dismisses those of us who haven’t had the exposure to different ways of life, and customs. It does not allow us to meet one another where we are. For me, it doesn’t allow for the movement that I think our future together will need. We cannot dig our heels into the ground, and demand others to be the ones who move.

This is an invitation. Would you like to run a marathon with me? Could we train together? Training will look different for the both of us. I hate running. You might enjoy it. I am sure to struggle with the pain in my calves, and will hit exhaustion a little more soon than you do. Would you not give up on me? You might know the trail better than me. Will you help me to see the dips so that I don’t trip? I’ll encourage you, and will share my water if you run out. I’ll share my playlist for moments when you don’t feel like talking. This, I don’t believe, is unity. It’s an understanding that our journey is different. Our training is different. But might we come to an agreement that our learning, and our training might lead us into a life that leads us towards, “what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.Micah 6:8.

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AshleyBrooke

Princeton Theological Seminary, MDiv/MACEF 2020 Aspiring advocate, learner, and United Methodist. she/her/hers