So. One month ago today was the Republican primary election in Arkansas. Many of you have been so kind to ask me how I am doing in the aftermath of our loss in Lucas' bid for the State Representative seat for Arkansas District 87. It really has taken me this entire month to process the experience and get back to a place internally that feels somewhat normal.
Lucas and I have believed for many years– really, since even before we were married– that someday if God opened the right doors and we believed He wanted us to do it, we would try to seek an elected legislative position for Lucas. Since I first met Lucas, I knew that he would be a great legislator, using his God-given gifts of intellect, analysis and most importantly the moral capacity to stand for what's right. We talked many times throughout our first decade of marriage about how an entry into politics might look or whether the time was right to take a leap.
Just over a year ago, I was pregnant with our fourth child, and some doors opened and circumstances fell into place that caused us to ask if this year was the time to make our bid for the state House of Representatives. We prayed about it, sought out wise counsel, and talked a lot about how the decision would affect our marriage, family, finances, etc. In the end, we really believed God wanted us to run for the district 87 State Representative seat. Even at the time, we were very aware that though we were completely convinced that God wanted us to run, we didn't know whether He wanted us to win. We announced Lucas' candidacy and from day one our constant prayer was that no matter the outcome, that we would honor God in every step of the process.
We thought then that it would be challenging. I knew that putting our family out there in the public spotlight to run for public office– even in the relatively small arena of state politics– would be WAY outside my comfort zone. I knew Lucas would be gone a lot during the campaign year, and I knew that would be tough on me as I was trying to care for four young children. But we were in it together, believed God wanted us to do it, and so we took the leap.
I can say from this side of the experience that the campaign and the loss were harder on me that I would have ever anticipated. Lucas and I have never worked so hard for anything. We spent just about every free minute of our life for over a year working on the campaign. We spent every penny to our name to try to make a dent against our opponent's massive campaign budget. We faced ethical quandaries and strained relationships and perhaps hardest of all, we leaned so heavily on our friends and family members to support us and work and give to the campaign as well. And then at the end of all that, we had to show up on election day and see if people would vote for us. With my immature, people-pleasing tendencies, the whole scenario really felt a little like a high school social nightmare. We were about to show up to school and the whole class was going to vote on whether they liked us and then announce it to the world. Ick.
In retrospect, I realize that, even though judging by political connections and campaign funding we were not supposed to win this race, I really believed we would. I prayed for God's will to be done and trusted His control and outcome of the race, but I also really thought that God was going to use the weak things (us) to overcome the strong. I was so aware of our weakness, both on a personal level and on a campaign level. I thought it would be such a great opportunity to give Him glory if we won- because we knew it would only be because of Him.
So when the numbers came in and the dust settled, I had some grieving to do. Everything we believed from the beginning was still true: we knew God had wanted us to run, and we knew that He was in control and His will was accomplished. But I was so disappointed, and I now had an opportunity to see if I really, really believed those spiritual platitudes that I'd been repeating to myself for the last year. I will say that the fact that two of the network news stations wrongly reported that we had won truly felt like the twist of the knife. We had to answer a lot of congratulatory e-mails, texts and conversations with a solemn reply: "Thank you so much.... but actually the news stations mixed up the numbers. We didn't win." I'm not gonna lie- that was tough.
In the aftermath, I've struggled with a pretty intense case of disillusionment. We live in the buckle of the Bible belt. My husband is an extremely intelligent, God-fearing man who truly wanted to serve this state in government and stand up for what's right. We worked as hard as two people can work and gave everything we have just to give him a shot at being able to do a job that it seems to me that he was made to do. And in the end, the people didn't elect him.
In the end, it felt like none of that mattered compared to an opponent with a $100,000 campaign budget. It felt like it came down to money. And that really left a bad taste in my mouth, so to speak. I feel like the system didn't work, that the dreams and the ideals that we say we value in America didn't play out... and that leaves me pretty disillusioned with our country and its direction. But perhaps every losing candidate feels like the system failed them? I hardly even feel like dressing my whole family up in red, white and blue and busting out all the mini American flags for the Fourth of July this year. And if you know that Roebucks, you know that's really saying something!
On the other hand, we learned how truly rich in friendship we are, as so many of our personal community and circle of friends and family went WAY above the call of duty to give and give and give of themselves in this campaign endeavor. And I've come to realize that, in the end, we really shouldn't be that surprised when the systems of this world may fail, but that it should make us even more grateful when the heavenly systems, in this case for us, the Body of Christ, do not fail. We were held up in love and in prayer in amazing, never-repayable ways.
Behind all my disillusionment and sadness over the outcome, I'm thankful that what I knew to be true in the beginning is still true. God is in control. The most important place and way I can honor him is within the privacy of my own heart and within the four walls of our home. We can trust Him and the fact that He did not choose this for us. If He didn't want it for us, we don't want it either. It's hard to say, harder to believe, but it's true.
More than a year ago when we were actively seeking wise counsel about whether to run this race, Lucas visited with many politically savvy individuals, many of them Christians, to get their insights and thoughts. They crunched numbers, ran scenarios and all the rest. But of all those conversations, one he had with Jim Bob Duggar stuck with us and really became something of a lifeline to truth for me throughout this whole intense campaign year. When Lucas asked Jim Bob what insights or thoughts he had about the possibility of Lucas running this race, Jim Bob simply replied something to this effect: "Lucas, we can hash out details and discuss possible scenarios, but in the end, all you truly have to do is pray about this. Ask the Lord if He wants you to run this race. If He says "yes," then run it, no matter what anyone else tells you. You never know how God is working or what He'll do, or how He will use this even in unexpected ways." And then he proceeded to tell Lucas about a time when he and Michelle were faced with a similar situation, wondering whether he should run for U.S. Senate. All the pundits and experts said he was a fool for running- that he would get slaughtered in that particular race. But Jim Bob and Michelle had prayed about it and believed God wanted them to run, and so they did. And– not surprisingly– they lost the race. But on election day, a TV producer saw their family coming out of the polling place and had the idea to do a TLC television special on the Duggar family. And so began their connections with TLC and the ensuing world-wide fame and opportunity to spread the gospel that they never would have had from a U.S. Senate seat.
So I'm choosing to believe that God will use this experience in ways we can't yet see. Perhaps that we won't ever see this side of eternity. I know that our desire has been to seek Him and honor Him and live for Him, and that's what He has asked of us. And at the very least, He has certainly used the challenges of the brief Roebuck family foray into politics to chip away at some parts of my character that needed quite and bit of work. And for that, I'm thankful.
The morning after the election, Lucas came into the kitchen where I was making breakfast for the kids. He took both my shoulders in both of his hands and looked me square in the eye. He said, "I will NEVER ask you to do that again." And even in that moment, I didn't want him to say that to me. Because I thought maybe the campaign was a little like childbirth– when you think "Why would anyone willingly go through that again??" But give it a little time and space, and the appeal slowly grows again. Because you see that though there's pain in the process, the outcome is precious and priceless. And if Lucas serving as a legislator is something God has for us someday, I think it will be all the richer for our difficult experience of this past year.
Lucas and I have some friends who are running for a Pennsylvania state house seat this year. They didn't have a primary opponent but will face an extremely difficult race against their democratic opponent in the November election. After our loss on May 20, the candidate's wife, Michele, sent me this short message on Facebook. It was so meaningful to me that I would share it as my final thought on the subject:
"You gave people an option. That is the great American way. We are so blessed to live in a country where we can choose our government officials. Luke will up against and established opponent in the fall. Like you said- we, too, leave the outcome to God. But at least the people have a choice."
And so we have closed this chapter of our lives and are already enjoying the next one: investing in our marriage, raising our four children to fear the Lord, working to impact our community and world for Christ and watching for whatever God has next for us.