For one very long semester, I worked as a substitute teacher. The phone would ring before the sun came up, and I got my assignment for the day. On a particularly cold morning, I found myself in a room with fifteen EBD (Emotionally and Behaviorally Disordered), elementary-aged students from around our school district. There was one other adult who served as an aide, but he left before attendance was taken to help find an EBD student who was a "runner." She had escaped immediately after arriving on the bus.
All was not chaos. The regular teacher had left instructions on his desk. I passed around nametags and markers, then set out to collect them.
One young man, a big sixth-grader, did not comply with my request to write his name. He watched as I neared him. "What's your deal?" he asked, spinning a thick book around the top of his desk.
"I'm the substitute," I said brightly.
"Yeah, I get that," he said. "What's your deal, though? Do you freak out if I just break my pencil in half, or does it take somebody throwing a chair at you?"
What a politician. He was sizing me up so he could empower himself. I leaned down to his level as I responded, to avoid further distraction for the rest of the students. As I did, the ceramic heart pendant on my necklace came to rest at the edge of his desk. I looked him in the eye. "I hope this is going to be a good day for all of us."
"Really?" he said. Then, with full force, he used his book to smack that little heart. Shards of it sprayed in all directions.
"Hey!" I yelled. "That's unacceptable."
He smiled. Now we understood one another.
As we approach the next presidential election, what's your deal? What is your tipping point with any given candidate? Is it strictly party affiliation, or is it a specific issue? Do you weigh personal issues between candidates—can one sin outrank another? Do religious beliefs matter? Do you prefer that a candidate has the same social roots as you? Do you admire a self-made man/woman? Does a different accent provoke your ire? Does ethnicity have any effect on your vote?
When you listen to political rhetoric, what's your deal? Are you waiting to hear a candidate speak in favor of your party's issues with fervent passion, even if you've heard him/her say the opposite to another crowd? Do you believe political promises even though you understand the reality and limitations of the three branches of our government?
What's the Christian's deal with politics in general? Is it our desire to limit governmental control and bolster individual freedom while we want the same government to mandate and police selected societal or moral issues? Are we willing to point to the Constitution when it suits our needs but look away when it protects our fellow citizens? In general, should liberals be considered as amoral, smart aleck do-gooders holding no regard for budgetary matters? Moreover, should conservatives be labeled as righteous patriots who singularly comprehend the value of money and private success?
Is cooperation something we teach our children but then set aside to scorn as adults? Do we Christians make a purposeful effort to engage both our hearts and our heads when we vote or, is that act more akin to executing a full-force smack against the opposing party to regain or maintain power?
I know this one thing. Take care about the location of your heart, and perhaps your head as well, when any politician is sizing you up.