The trees are bare – what leaves left are a dull yellow – and I’m cold and cranky in the mitten.
I finally conceded to fall last week when I wore my boots for the first time since last year. I’ve spent October largely in denial that it was coming and yet Thanksgiving is in just over three weeks. Midterm elections are over and while many of the politicians for whom I voted retained or gained the positions for which they ran, I’m not thoroughly pleased with where our country stands and I don’t cherish great hopes for vast improvement in the near future.
The amber, from where I sit, is a little dull.
I had to talk myself into voting. I had plans after work that with Detroit traffic would be crazy enough to make and then I had to squeeze voting in there somewhere. I hadn’t planned on voting because I had forgotten to get the voter guide from my parents’ house and I felt an uninformed vote was an unhelpful one. And then my dad showed up work bearing said voter guide and my excuse for abstaining was no longer valid.
It took me the next day and some thinking to remember that my family, going back for generations, have served in the military to gain and protect this right and that my great-uncle ultimately died for it. And even though I had voted, I felt guilty for having considered not doing so, because a vote not taken is freedom squandered.
And how often do we squander the gift? How often do we forget it exists or take it as a guarantee? I see this with jury duty more often than with voting: a revolutionary opportunity (to be judged by a jury of your peers!) turned civic drudgery. This is not only so with civic life. This is so, too, with our spiritual lives.
Last week my church had their biannual missions fest. This is one of my favorite times of year at church. I have long been passionate about missions, whether short- or long-term (and many of you know this), and to meet our missionaries and hear their stories reminds me why I believe and fires me up all over again. This year, two of our missionary families presented the Bible in two languages that previously had no Scripture in their language.
This happened the same week I made a sad face over the SRT app not having the ESV. Not only do I forget what a gift it is to have the Bible in English, but I complain because it’s not always comprised of the particular arrangement of English words I prefer.
I’m comfortable with a separation of church and state (more as it was originally intended than how it’s currently practiced), but I also believe that learning to be good citizens of heaven includes learning to be good citizens on earth. Jesus addresses this unity when He tells the people to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s (i.e. pay your taxes) and I don’t think that message is meant for only those whose ears literally absorbed the vibrations of Jesus’s speech. I think it’s meant for us as well, for even though our country has operated secularly throughout the course of its existence, God saw fit for that existence to be brought forth. He allowed for the creation of the colonies into a baby nation. And He has watched that baby nation grow into a towering toddler, and He is yet sovereign over it, and He placed us here with all of its privileges and first world problems.
With great power comes great responsibility. We continue to quote this because it’s true but I think also because we recognize its appropriateness in our own lives. We don’t face starvation, dehydration, or weather machinations on life-threatening levels with regularity. There is a safety in that, but likewise is there a responsibility to step out of that for the sake of those who cannot truthfully attest to that in their own lives. We have to remember, and to understand, and I am most guilty of this, that our civic responsibility does not only mean having a voice in what happens in our nation but what happens in our world. That’s powerful. That’s major influence. And we forget we wield it.
So today, I think, I’m laying down the shackles I take up every time I view my spiritual and civic responsibilities as chores that “have” to be done. Paul urges us in Galatians not to be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. It’s a challenge that applies to us not only as followers of Christ, but as American citizens. Let’s not walk back under the tyranny our forefathers fought a war to end. Let’s keep those chains buried in the past where they belong.