The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of His hands. Psalms 9:1
It was for better or worse. In a little more than a week my wife and I will celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary. I know if you have ever seen us you would find that hard to believe because we look so young. Smile. The years have flown by so quickly. I can remember the days we would go to a conference and something and they would introduce the guest speaker saying they had been married for 35 years or so. The crowd would erupt in applause. I would think how old they were. I am now that person. But they say that age is just a number and that’s true.
When I married Judy that hot (and I do mean hot) June day in south Georgia we made a commitment to each other. It went something like this, “for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health till death do us part.” It was a deal we made with each other that no matter what we were stuck on (and not stuck with) each other. We decided that we were in this for the long haul. There have been speed bumps, detours and even a few fender benders but love somehow learns to forgive, and sometimes ignore, those.
I bet you think this story is about marriage, didn’t you? Got you. Nope, it is about my love for this country. Yesterday, June 14th, was Flag Day. It garnered a place on our church marquee and a mention in the sermon intro. Oh, and I also worn a flag pin. But it had a much bigger place in my heart. I love my country, the land where God put me, America…not because it is perfect but because I can stand every week in our church and say what I want…and no one is going to arrest me. I love America because it is still the land of the free. I am writing this in Tennessee. I didn’t need anyone’s permission to leave; I just got in the car and off Judy and I went. Yup, I love America. Having lived in and visited over twenty-five countries in this world…I have seen and experienced many others and America still tops the list.
You are probably wondering, “Dewayne, with all its warts and imperfections, with all its injustices and wrongs, with all its junk, how can you love America?” Well, the answer is two fold. One, from where I sit, it is still the best place in the world to live. Its landscape and people-scape are just amazing. It is filled with people willing to die for what they believe…that is why we are free. It is a place where you can speak your mind and even protest a wrong. The second reason is I signed up for the long haul. Its kinda like the deal that Judy and I made. “For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health till death parts us.” I’m an American till the end.
Judy loves me…a lot. She somehow manages to love me in spite of my failures and faults. It kinda reminds me of God. He just refuses to give up on us. He extends grace and mercy and works to make us more and more like Him. With that comes a better me. As we work to make America a better place to live and work, as we extend grace and mercy to each other, we are mirroring Him. Sounds like a good plan to me.
Like I said earlier, yesterday was Flag Day. When I look at Old Glory I see the rich history, imagine the price that countless men and women have paid for this experiment in democracy and fall in love all over again. And in these stars and stripes I see the hope not only for you and me, not only for America but for the world. I see the gospel according to Old Glory. I know each color and each part of the flag has special meaning but allow me some liberty…pun intended.
When I see the field of stars I am reminded that in Psalm 19:1 “the heavens declare the glory of God.” It reminds me that every star in the sky is a witness to the existence of God. The blue field reminds me that there is a King in heaven. Blue is the color of royalty and it points to the King of the universe…the creator of all. His name is Jesus and He loves everybody regardless of skin color, language spoken or place lived. The red reminds me of the measure of this King’s love..He died on a Roman cross. He was not murdered and He wasn’t even martyred…He willingly died. The payment for sin…all sin…was death and He paid the price. Amazing.
And the white…well that is my favorite color because it stands for forgiveness. White shouts that my sins are forgiven, that I am free and that I can call the Creator of the universe, “Abba Father or Dearest Daddy.” I know you might think I’m taking a little too much liberty with that title but that is what He is.
Anyway, I’m grateful for a wife who loves me regardless of my shortcomings. I am grateful for a place to call home that gives me the freedom to live, worship and believe as I see fit. Perfect? Not even by a long shot but I’m gonna stick around and do what I can to make her better. I’m gonna stick around and make sure the America my grandkids grow up is even better that the one I knew and know. And I am very grateful for a God that loves me unconditionally, that He is big enough to handle all the fears and warts of life and big enough to give me a place to rest…in Him. Oh, and I’m glad that He is big enough to conquer sin, death and grave because it just proves…He’s got this.