by Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson for The Christian Citizen

OK, I will admit it; I am all in for the Netflix series, “Bridgerton.” I love the romance and pageantry of nineteenth-century London. I am also smitten with the series’ protagonists: Simon, Duke of Hastings, and his bride, Daphne Bridgerton, Duchess of Hastings.

Anyone who knows the series knows that the protagonists have struggled, their marriage is strained, and separation seems plausible. However, prior to an ultimate decision, the couple must host the final event of the season: a ball at their manor, Clyvedon. In preparation, a painter was commissioned to paint a portrait of the Duke and Duchess, but it was not going well. The tensions of marital strife were painfully displayed on their faces and the painter’s attempts to soften the mood were for naught. Finally, in frustration, he said, “Perhaps His Grace could place his hand on the Duchess’ shoulder so that you both could look as happy as you surely must be.” As Simon placed his hand on Daphne’s shoulder, the anger and malice melted away. Their faces softened and looks of love replaced their scowls. The painter said, “My word. The very picture of devotion.” It was a touch: the opportunity for estranged people to recognize the humanity in the other, break down walls, and see that what separates us is small in comparison to what unites.

Unfortunately, our virtual, pandemic-separated society has created a wedge between us. Social media has learned decision making from its flawed human creators. Bias, discrimination, and hatred is propagated across the internet at gigabyte speed. When our neighbor is faceless and when information – even misinformation – is ubiquitously available, then doubt, distrust, and dislike is easily sown. We are eating it up like junk food. What has happened to us?

Like the Duke and Duchess of Hastings, we have forgotten how to love. We have forgotten the joy of being together and hearing one another’s thoughts and perspectives. However, we cannot blame the pandemic on our separation. We have allowed social media to be the divider, allowing it to separate us into polarized camps. But if we could remember, we could heal. It is a choice, but it is one we need to make.

This is the choice that God presented when God appeared to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14. God said, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” It was a choice. If we would humble ourselves and recognize that so many of our challenges are self-inflicted, then we could draw closer to God and one another. Through humility, we would see the divine spark that God has planted in each of us and recognize how precious and beautiful we are in the eyes of God. Such awareness would enable us to see that challenging circumstances are not meant to polarize but bring us together as mutually connected overcomers.

Then as we pray, which is the call for God’s help, we are positioned for a metanoia moment. We turn from our way to the direction in which God leads. If we will do this, God will meet us. God meets us by hearing us, even over a cacophony of sound. God meets us by forgiving our sins through faith in Jesus Christ. God meets us to heal our land, bring us together, and restore relationships. We need only do our part.

At the Hastings’ ball, Daphne explains to her mother the futility of her marital situation. Her mother presses for the need to choose love and forgiveness, but Daphne insists that she does not know how to overcome the challenges. Forcefully, Daphne’s mother says, “You are a Bridgerton; you can do anything.”

It would not be surprising for many of us to respond as Daphne did. The challenges of our country seem almost insurmountable and we may not know how to overcome them. But we are the followers of the Most High God through Jesus Christ, and through Christ we can do all things because he strengthens us. Our country needs healing, and we are the ones that are called to seek God for healing through humility, prayer, and discernment. So, let us reach out, touch, and cross the bridge that divides.

The Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson is Dean of the Robert A. Foisie Business School of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a premiere Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) based institution recognized for project-based education that integrates the theory and practice of management and prepares students to assume positions of leadership in an increasingly global business environment while yielding societal impact. Her book “Meant for Good: Fundamentals in Womanist Leadership,” is available from Judson Press