I wrote this a few years ago for a newsletter. Excuse the intensity of it. I was feeling a little intense at the time, as my father had only passed away the year before.
Have a safe and happy 4th of July.
When I was four years old, my family moved from Tucson, Arizona, to Lynchburg, Virginia, on little more than a whim. My parents packed up our Volkswagen van, a rented moving truck, and our camper and off we went. Dad was leaving a teaching job where he was loved and respected and appreciated. He was leaving his favorite brother. He was leaving his best friend who had baptized him. He was leaving his beloved West. And why? Because he fell in love with Virginia and her history. Once in Virginia, my impulsive father, my patient mother, and we six kids camped out at a lake for eight weeks while Dad looked for—and found--a job and a house. It was only recently that a friend of our family pointed out that we were technically homeless at that point in our lives. But for us it was a marvelous adventure experienced all for the love of history.
I grew up in Virginia with evidence of my father's love for this country all around me. We weren't a flag-waving, 4th-of-July picnicking, red-white-and-blue parading family; we were simply a family that knew George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin better than we knew our aunts and uncles. We knew all of the words to every song in "1776." We visited Revolutionary War battlegrounds on virtually every family vacation. We used Dad's own personal library for every history paper we ever wrote. Our home was filled with Americana antiques and framed copies of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and iron-cast figures of red and blue soldiers and their canons.
When July rolls around, thanks to my childhood, the men and women who struggled for this nation's freedom come to my mind. The miracle of so many brilliant minds and strong hearts and courageous spirits leave me with an immense sense of awe and gratitude. These were individuals who seized not just the meaning of freedom, but of free agency. Read a bit about our founding fathers and mothers and we find that they were "only" farmers and lawyers and printers and carpenters and wives and mothers. Yet they found power within that propelled them forward regardless of those "onlies."
Think about the percentage of time you allow fear to dictate your decision-making process: fear of failure, fear of disapproval, fear of rejection. And when we allow fear to control out lives, how free are we? How truly are we exercising our God-given free agency? My favorite scripture is 2 Timothy 1:7: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." What power are we giving into if we hand ourselves over to fear either through our actions or inactions?
Where would we be today if not just Adams, Jefferson, Washington, and Franklin had given into their "onlies," but if every nameless hero in the years surrounding the Revolution had given in? And are we giving into the "onlies" in our lives? "I'm only a mother, a wife, a student, a secretary, a professor . . ." And where would we be if we found the courage to reach beyond our perceived limitations? Where would we be if more of our decisions were based not on fear, but on true power and love and soundness of mind?
Had my father been afraid to move to Virginia 30-plus years ago without a job, a house, or connections, I'm sure my life would still be a happy one, but it's been so much richer thanks to my association with this nation's past. I'm truly full of thankfulness this time of year for this country. Our history isn't always a proud one and certainly not a perfect one. But I believe God has always been in the details, whether as the conductor of events or the strength within those who struggled and survived and brought us to where we are today.
May we all reach beyond our onlies and in so doing find who we are meant to be.