It's Election Season, Again

It’s officially election season.    


Generally, election cycles are something I really enjoy.  I like the campaign atmosphere, I like volunteering, and I like the feeling of accomplishment when you see the candidate you supported win.  It’s exciting, it’s stressful, and thanks to the media you get to hit all of those highs and lows with millions of other people across the country.  


And that’s pretty cool.


But before we know it, the cycle will be over.  Elections will have been won and lost and campaigns will have shut down.


Until, of course, it’s time to wind up for the next one.   


Our election cycle is structured so that we’re always thinking ahead. We’re always thinking about who is going to be elected next, what the big issues will be a year from now, and (of course) how to keep those we agree with in office.


The same goes for politicians, who are always preoccupied with their next campaign.  


Which doesn’t leave much time to focus on actually doing the job.


So candidates end up worrying so much about keeping the job they have, they don’t focus on actually doing the job while they have it.  They are constantly striving to hit that next goal, to win that next campaign.  And focusing on what comes next, what lies ahead, doesn’t leave much time to focus on the now.  


I fall victim to that cycle in my personal life all the time.  


Like I mentioned last week: social media makes it really easy to see all the major life goals my friends are hitting.  Which makes me anxious that I am somehow falling behind.  It’s an endless cycle of pressure to achieve whatever comes next.


And the more I dwell on the next big thing I should be accomplishing, the harder it is to sit still and work on actually living Orthodoxy on a daily basis.  


Politics is compelling because it’s simple: there’s a clear winner, and everyone else is a clear loser.  There are dozens of people running for president today, but only one person will take the oath of office in 2017.  The rest will be nothing more than also rans, at best footnotes in a history book.  The system is binary: either you’re the winner, or you’re not.


If you’re not first, you’re last.  


I often treat my goals in the same binary way: either I’ve accomplished something, or I haven’t.  I just want to know (right now) if I’m doing a good enough job, if I’ve done enough to check another goal off my ambitious list.


And that’s a problem.  


Because most things aren’t binary.  Our lives are far more analog than digital.  We don’t simply rest in the certainty of ones and zeros, we struggle in the grey area between light and darkness.  


I often wish my life looked like a campaign cycle: short spurts of effort rewarded with immediate results.  I want to be just a few short months away from being in great shape, from learning a new language, from being the sort of person I want to be.


I want to be just a few short months away from being holy.


But my spiritual life isn’t binary.  It’s much more complex than either being saved or being damned.  The older I get, and the more I reflect, the more I realize that I’m working my way through the grey, making progress with some struggles and taking steps backwards with other issues.


As Christian wrote on Tuesday, some days are better than others.


Life and my road to salvation aren’t a campaign trail. If I think about them like that’s all they are, I’ll run the risk of not focusing on the work I need to be doing now.  Unfortunately, it’s a temptation into which I slip far too often.


I struggle to remember that the things I’m doing now, the work I’m doing on myself, and the relationships I’m building, aren’t short term projects on my ambitious checklist.  Perfection isn’t simply a goal I can set for something.  It’s not about the things I’m meant to do, it’s about the person I’m meant to be.  All this work and struggle is so that I can become a better Orthodox Christian.  


And that is a non-stop difficult battle that I will be fighting the rest of my life.


I’m working on remembering that there’s one overarching goal that I’m striving towards every day, which is more important than all the short term goals I stress out about.  And it’s not the sort of goal that offers the instant gratifications of instant feedback, the over-simplistic binary of success/failure.  It’s a daily struggle between who I am and who I’m called to be.  It’s the struggle to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  


I can’t just quickly check my phone to see if I’m ahead in the polls.  All I can do is bring my struggles to the Lord and, through the prayers of the saints and the guidance of my spiritual father, fight one day at a time.  


And the results won’t be in for a long time.




Charissa is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM.  Charissa grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah where she studied political science at the University of Utah.  She enjoys sunshine, the mountains and snowcones.  Charissa currently lives in New York City.