Bleary-eyed and barely awake, I slide out of bed at what *feels* like the crack of dark. I’m trying to check my frame of reference for the day ahead… to focus. Suddenly I’m reminded of the promise I’d made the night before to take my son to the “See you at the Pole” event hosted by a school in our community. It’s the first time for both of us but he’d asked and I’d agreed.
In full scum-bunny fashion, I grab what clothes I can find. Unwashed face and hair barely tamed by the bandana I found on the floor, I don a sweater against the early morning autumn chill.
Coffee, keys, door, car. go.
I was never planning to get out and take my place in the circle gathered in front of the building. However, turning off the ignition, I began to recognize some the folks from my church and community and it dawns on me the privilege we were enjoying and expressing in this moment. A quick mirror check confirms the fact that I am actually pretty gross but oh well…
One of the senior students, a girl barely seventeen with an admirable air of confidence, begins the assembly, her opening remarks followed by some slightly awkward singing. Other students present their offerings through the open reading of God’s word and prayer in the presence of the 90-plus gathered for worship this day.
A steady breeze, scented with the coming rain, freshens through our midst as low purpley-grey clouds, streaked orange and rose, skid across the morning sky. The steady cling…cling… of flag clasps beating against the pole chimes out a music of it’s own, while the groups’ leader offers Scriptural encouragements to those who have assembled in witness.
I take a step back in my mind, gazing out over the whole of the situation and this group of souls gathered and united by a common cause. There for a variety of reasons yet, nonetheless, assembled in thanks and praise to God for the freedom we still have to do so.
I imagine a few, including myself, did not awaken to thoughts of any threat of losing this freedom or what it may mean to someday not have this choice. It’s something to consider how gatherings like these are becoming fewer and less populated across the country. The news is nearly non-existent and rather underwhelming at times and I confess, if my son had not asked, I would not have known and even knowing, I still likely would have chosen to stay home as in years before.
I am disgusted by my own apathy–never mind those who may have shown up this morning simply for the promise of a Mennonite donut and juice.
I look around the circle at this little band of fellow strugglers…students and citizens of this little town we call home and I see the church….still trying.
- There’s the fresh-faced and hopeful child ready to take his place inside for the day’s learning, present amongst the handful of his teachers taking their stand to teach and model this freedom while they still can.
- The middle-aged Mom, war-weary and battle scarred from the lessons she’s learned the hard way but grateful for the new day, a second chance before God and for being in this company.
- The Dad standing steady behind his son, a hand on the boy’s shoulder, knowing there will be forces to come against them both in the days and years to come.
- The naive, smiling and rather insulated teen collective with their hopeful and unsteady faith still largely untested but willing to lead us to God today…willing to try.
Together, out in the open, we sing of our God’s greatness, His strength..of His healing and height beyond any other. Into the sky, we sing of His awesome power and chant how “if our God is with and for us, then who could ever stop us…no one could stand against.”
Finally, as if on cue, the last note rings out and an arrow of white field birds shoots across the sun-streaked sky in praise of the Creator.
In this moment, we are one nation under God
and beautifully indivisible.
The group disperses in the direction of the donut table as students and teachers head inside to begin the school day. Others stand around in smaller groups laughing, visiting and munching in community. It’s then I notice a small band of grade-schoolers pressing through the crowd still spilling across the steps.
In their arms they carry the emblems of our state and nations’ freedom. A happy and chatty little group, one grabs hold of the rope, pulling the clasps towards the ground while the other two discuss the cocker spaniel they’ll be getting next week. Together and without much fanfare, they hoist the two flags towards the heavens.
And they fly.
In the morning breeze over these citizens, over this schoolhouse, over this little town, the flags fly. They fly, held firmly not by a clasp, or a rope or a pole cemented deeply into the ground.
They fly and we stand even now, because there, placed our midst and around which we gathered to offer praise on this particular day, stands the symbol of our ultimately purchased freedom:
And there my heart swelled with thanksgiving. Oh God, I pray, be blessed by this slice of America. I am. It’s a beautiful day to be free.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.