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More than fireworks on the 4th

At times, I am disgusted with our nation. America is rife with flaws, with sin and with pain. Our government is imperfect and we complain about it frequently. Our economy is in the most deplorable state most people have seen in their lifetimes. Divorce rates have soared to epidemic, unprecedented levels.

And yet, for jut a few moments on Independence Day as I was overlooking the city, we seemed to be one nation, united, under God, again. The sense of American pride and patriotism were contagious this weekend as thousands of Americans — and foreigners, to be certain— crowded the National Mall to celebrate that God-given cornerstone that makes our nation great — freedom. Children lined the lawn waving flags furiously. Tears welled in the eyes of many as “Proud to be an American” reverberated among the crowds. Military men held their families close as they smilingly watched the scene unfold before them.

For a glimmer of a time, the nation set before my eyes was not one of destruction, of chaos and uncertainty, but of wholeness, of stability and of hope. For just a few moments, I saw an America untainted by depravity and unburdened by pain as the fireworks burst piercingly and fell silently behind the Washington Monument.

This. This was the America we all love. This is what other nations look on at and dream to taste.

This week, I was reminded sharply of what a high price some paid so that thousands upon thousands of us could simply watch in awe as those colors painted the summer sky. From the “All gave some, some gave all” T-shirt I saw hanging on the dilapidated street stand near one of the Smithsonian museums to the short film I watched on one of World War II jet fighter pilots who very nearly lost his life for our country at the Air and Space Museum, I was reminded that freedom is not free.

I, along with millions of people I don’t know and likely will never meet, have the ability to choose because God granted his favor upon our nation and because thousands upon thousands were willing to live and die for something they would never fully enjoy.

It’s infuriating to think how some people use that freedom. To cause pain to others. To destroy. To lust after worldly wealth. To speak out against life for innocent, unborn children. To simply do nothing beyond living for selfish interests.

But for me that Independence Day on the lawn of the Capitol, it was a wake up call. What am I doing with my life so that those who sacrificed didn’t do so in vain? Certainly, I hardly dwell enough upon the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice for my life. And ultimately, it is to him that I owe my gratitude. But I have come to a greater appreciation of those who paid a high price for liberties I enjoy everyday in this land where “at least I know I’m free,” as the song goes.

It’s a sober realization. Even more sobering, there is no way to repay those soldiers for their sacrifice except to continue to exercise freedoms responsibly. To fight for them fiercely. And to oppose anything that comes against them tirelessly.

At times, I fear for our nation. But then, I meet families like the Christian military family my mom and I met as we bided our time waiting for the concert to begin in the 90-degree heat. One sister, lights in her eyes, talked about how she wanted to be a teacher. Another, a 9-year-old, grinned as her mom talked about how the girl reads medical books just for fun. Another smiled cheerfully as she expressed her desire to be a writer when she grows up.

There is hope for our nation. There is hope as long as some who believe in the true King stay faithful to his Word. And as long as children pursue their dreams of helping others. And as long as some are still willing to pay that ultimate price.

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