I still remember the excitement I experienced as my Delta flight entered American airspace. After a sixteen-hour plane ride and a summer abroad, my patriotism rivaled the likes of Lee Greenwood. I was so glad to be home, and I was proud to be an American. My parents raised me to be appreciative and to take nothing for granted, but spending a summer outside of the United States gave me new eyes to see the extent of my blessing.
Before I went home they warned us to be on the lookout for bitterness and anger within our hearts towards the American way of life. I had been exposed to a reality where people endured poverty, religious freedom didn’t exist, and not everyone was created equal. The majority of the culture I was reentering had only experienced life, liberty, and justice for all.
I don’t remember myself becoming angry or bitter, but I do remember becoming acutely aware of my situation. I experienced a newfound appreciation and thankfulness towards the previously unnoticed. Eventually my eyes would fade back to normal, but before they did I made note of the blessings so I would be marked by them in the future.
It has been almost ten years since I traveled abroad, but it is still influencing my life and serving as a needed reminder. As Christians, we need reminders like these to help us appreciate our religious freedom. The fact that we are able to worship, serve, and financially support the Mission of God is an anomaly, and not afforded by many Christians around the world.
I fear that much of the privilege we experience as followers of Christ in America is going unnoticed and taken for granted. A few weeks ago, I told the church I pastor that I believe in our lifetime we will look back with sorrow wishing we had taken better advantage of what we had been given. Currently, we are free t0 pray publically, evangelize openly, and assemble corporately. The likelihood of our children or our children’s children being entitled these same blessings seems highly unlikely (more like impossible) considering the moral decline of America (more to come on this issue soon).
Memorial Day is set aside each year to celebrate and remember the men and women who gave their lives so that we could experience freedom. I hope that you would use this yearly reminder as a time to take an honest assessment of your life…acknowledge all good and perfect gifts you’ve been given…and allow each of them to serve as a reminder of God’s love and purpose for you (James 1:17).
5 And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, 6 that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ 7 then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (Joshua 4:5-7)