In a calm and subdued voice this morning, President Obama told people at the National Prayer Breakfast that “When I wake in the morning, I wait on the Lord…and when I go to bed at night…I wait on the Lord.”
The president was referring to the words found in the Book of Isaiah, where it reads, “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings, as eagles; they shall run and not get weary; they shall walk, and not faint.”
The president talked of the strength his Christian faith has given him, though he didn’t go to church much as a child. His mother, he said, took him to church on Christmas and Easter.
But the president said that his mother was a profoundly spiritual woman, who drummed into him the tenets of the so-called “Golden Rule,” that we do to others as we would have them do to us.”
That basic teaching, he said, has driven him and guided him to be concerned for “the least of these.”
And yes, for those who have wondered, questioned and criticized, he said that did in fact confess Jesus as his personal Lord and savior, something that happened as he immersed himself in working for the poor and disenfranchised, and was surrounded by pastors and ministers who believed in and leaned on the Christ.
What was gripping about the president’s words was how clearly his concern for “the least of these” peppered his every sentence. He said that he prays regularly, that it keeps him humble and focused on those who struggle. He said that church and nonprofits cannot fix all that is wrong, and the private sector will not.
That being the case, he voiced his belief that it is government’s role to help where and when it can. He talked about remembering Biblical principles while guiding government to help “in alignment with the principles of our Constitution.”
I often think that when it comes to many things, there is not such a divide between Democrats and Republicans as people make there out to be. There isn’t even that much a divide, on some things, between conservative and liberal.
But as I study history, and today, listened to the president, I did think that the division between red and blue is “the least of these.” It feels like some of those who are conservative would leave those in America who are struggling to fend on themselves, blaming them, in essence, for their situations. They would rather pray and work for people in other lands.
The cry of “government being too big” has seemingly come when government has tried to help the poor and struggling in America, “the least of these.”
To me, at least, as I listened to the president, that reality seemed most stark. Here is a president who believes in the Bible and the Constitution as deeply as any conservative, yet whose heart breaks at the thought of people being without health care, or food, or shelter.
At the same time, he has to worry about, and establish, America’s place in the world. He cannot close his eyes and ignore the chaos in Egypt, and he has to set up policies that will advance this country, not put it in danger.
His, then, is a plate full to overflowing. I find comfort in that he “waits on the Lord” even as he works to meld Bible and Constitution. He quoted Lincoln, who said that often he is driven to his knees to pray, because there is nowhere else to go.
That is a good thing. A very good thing