I’ve always loved the 4th of July. Fireworks. Picnics. Patriotic bands. Swimming pools and beaches. Friends and family.
For years a parade ran down Independence Street near our home. Many of our friends joined us along the route early with their lawn chairs and coolers. All the parade entries were decorated in red, white and blue. We cheered just as much for the band and floats as we did for the neighborhood bicycle group and the Model T Club as they passed us. We visited as we ate snacks and watermelon. One year when the parade ended, the men had a seed spitting contest. Afterward, we grabbed barbecue to-go plates at a nearby church and shared lunch at our house.
Great memories celebrating a country we all love.
I do love America, but I’m also very aware of how far the United States is from being as perfect as we like to believe that it is or was—after all time and lack of knowledge about history help us ignore the worst and focus on the best. I’ve been saddened as I’ve grown to understand more of the other side of the positive history that I learned in school: land stolen from natives, slavery’s horrors, Jim Crow’s lynchings, systemic injustice, internment of ethnic Japanese in WWII, lies from our leaders to do their will, and racism that continues to this day largely unseen by people who look like me.
But on July 4th 2019, I choose to remember what’s great about our amazing Constitution. Although it wasn’t originally ideal and still isn’t even with its amendments, for almost 250 years it has helped us strive toward a more perfect union.
A union of states. A union of native-born and immigrant. A union of those seeking freedom from autocrats and oppression. A union of those who love having the freedom to worship and speak the truth. A union of those who want opportunity and jobs. A belief in equality.
So how do I celebrate the 4th? In part in prayer.
For our country, I ask for more perfect union. For myself, I pray to rectify and understand as a peacemaker instead of being a divider. I ask God for more understanding of those who disagree with me so I give them grace and the benefit of the doubt. I pray to remember that patriotism doesn’t involve always agreeing with our party or our leaders, or showing patriotism as I do, but it means loving our country enough to work toward its improvement. My prayer is that Christian love for others would overcome fears and heal divisions. Above all, I ask God to give me a love for him that is so strong that my priorities are his glory and his kingdom, not that of my temporary home on earth. I pray that God will detach me from the idols that encourage my love of this work but threaten my faith in him— seeking after safety, security, ease, comfort and the national interests.
I love the United States. That means I celebrate today, although I see many blemishes. I realize that any nation is merely a vague shadow of the perfect kingdom of God which will come to earth someday.
“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:19-21).