I learned a swift lesson about the freedom we enjoy in this nation the day we picked up a Cuban refugee family from the airport. Reading about the perils faced by those living in restricted nations does not compare with beholding their relief upon their first taste of freedom. There he sat, staring at the bleak and desolate Carolina December landscape, with tears streaming.
“We have made it to free soil,” he said in his native tongue. He gave an assuring look to his wife, whose smile is as bright as the sun, and gently rested his arm across her shoulder and touched that of his son. They had made it to freedom. My friend nearly choked on the words as she translated for me, as I was struggling to understand their dialect.
The words etched on Lady Liberty’s statue manifested before my eyes in that moment:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
There is no telling what they have had to endure. I’ve never been comfortable with the phrase “I’m proud to be an American” (because of Gal. 6:14). Glad, yes. Grateful, abundantly. It’s not that I’m unpatriotic. Pride insinuates that I have had some part in acquiring my birthplace, and that is not the case. I simply had the good fortune to be born here, and not elsewhere. To that I owe gratitude to my ancestors from Germany and Switzerland, who braved the Atlantic and left their countries to seek new opportunity in this new nation. And subsequently I owe a debt of gratitude to those who have served to defend that freedom and that opportunity in the hundreds of years since. Like my father’s father, whom I never knew. He died long before I was born. To his service, and those like him, I owe an untold debt.
I am deeply and humbly and abundantly grateful for the freedom I enjoy as a citizen of this great nation.
Recently I saw a Facebook post that said, “Memorial Day: It’s not about the Barbecues.” But may I submit that it is about the barbecue, the parade, the family gathering? May I be so bold as to suggest that gathering together and enjoying the company of our loved ones is precisely what they were fighting for? Are not the carefree smiles of our children a gentle reminder of the sacrifices made?
Today, we pause briefly to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. We wave our flags, visit the cemetery, attend a parade, or gather with our families. A pause. But the greater chance to pay our respect for their sacrifice comes in all our tomorrows. May we live our entire lives in such a way to honor those who gave their lives for ours. Let not their death be in vain! Let not our freedom be in vain!
The Christian clause here is obvious: With that great freedom, comes great responsibility. For to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). It is my humble belief that we followers of Christ must use this gift of freedom for His glory. We have the great privilege to proclaim His name freely! Without threat of imminent death! May we not take that liberty for granted for a single moment! And may we not miss the opportunities that abound to proclaim Him to those who are still captive. For there is no purer freedom than that which is found in Christ (Rom. 8:2, John 8:32).
For freedom, we thank our country. For being set free, we thank our Savior.
I am infinitely grateful for both.
May my life be a reflection of my gratitude….by offering both a lifted lamp and a saving Light to any ‘yearning to breathe free’.