I am an American. And I am not ashamed to be an American.
There was a time that I was not able to say that and truly mean it. Americans in generations past had no problem accepting this truth, but I have. And I believe many in the post Baby-Boomer generations may feel the same.
We grew up in a time where America was not the WWII hero of the 1940s. Our America had already become well criticized by much of the world by the time we arrived on the scene. I discovered this painful truth even more as I began to travel outside of my own borders.
I felt ashamed to be American.I felt ashamed to be an American. #America Click To Tweet
I loved America, for sure. But gone were the days when I could naively brush away the pain that my country has caused. Yes, we have done much good. But was have also failed.
It’s possible that America has entered into her adolescence. We are still a very young country in comparison to most. In our childhood, we knew no wrong. We could not see it. But now, we do. We cannot ignore the grave injustices that have occurred in our country or around the world by our hands. We have to somehow learn to embrace both and grow into adulthood.
So what do we do?
There seem to be 2 ways that most people go:
- Dig in our heels and convince ourselves that America is not guilty and should be charged with no wrong. Defend the wrongs we have done because admitting them would be to admit our weakness. OR
- Burn our flags and stop celebrating the 4th. Focus only on all the terrible injustices that we have allowed. Pretend we are Canadians when we go abroad. Try to be more like Europe.
But can I propose that there is another way? A personal journey that I have walked.
It took my non-American friends to show me the truth. I had to get out of the US to realize the pain that America has caused but also to find redemption.
After I graduated from college, I spent some time living in Australia, working and studying with Youth With A Mission. I shared my days with people from many nations around the world. And I had the privilege of working under some dear Australian leaders.
I can remember one specific time when one of my co-workers, a young man from Europe, began rattling off all the negatives about Americans: arrogant, rude, impatient, know-it-alls, ignorant, uneducated, etc, etc.
And I felt my heart sink. It was true.
We can be like that. I can be like that. I thought the other non-Americans in the room would smile, roll their eyes and continue on, like most people do when talking about the loud-American. And even though it felt belittling and unfair, I couldn’t deny it.
But our director (who happened to be Australian) did not let it slide. He called this young man out. He said Americans were his brothers and sisters, and that we were good.
Did you hear it? We are good!
God began to heal my heart that day. He began to show me that He calls me good. And He calls me American. Those two descriptions do not have to contradict each other.
America is a great country. I don’t believe it’s the “greatest” in the world (except when I refer to “greatest” in the sense that I think my mom is the greatest mom in the world…as I should.) I love my country. She is good and has done much good.
And God loves America. That’s right. He doesn’t love America more than anyone else, but He is deeply fond of America.Dear American, God is not embarrassed of you. #Merica Click To Tweet
Dear American, God loves you. He loves your fire and your deep cry for justice. He loves your passion and your innovation. He loves the way you think outside of convention and the way that you generously give. He loves your strength. He loves you. Those good qualities represent Him. He likes your American-ness. He is proud of you and proud of America. He doesn’t want you to try to become someone else.
Do we have issues? Yes. Do we sin? Yes. (Usually with a bang so that the whole world knows!) But is that what God sees when He looks at me? No. He doesn’t just see my mistakes. He sees His delight. God delights in America. And God delights in all countries. He sees them as large families, because that is, in essence, exactly what they are.
Does that mean we ignore the pain that we have caused? Definitely not. The path to redemption is to first realize that we are loved and then, out of that place of security, to love others. Even if that requires humbling ourselves and making restitution with those we have wronged.
(Maybe you can’t relate to feeling ashamed to be American, but you are a part of a group that has been accused of other wrong-doings. This is for you too!)
We are guilty of great sins. We cannot and should not deny it. But we are also worthy of great love.
I believe that in the process of realizing we are loved, we’ll lose the insecurity we have draped around us like a robe. We’ll find that we no longer have to feel so critical of others, so judgmental and bitter. We’ll become confident enough in our own selves that we will be free to rejoice in the successes of others. We’ll stop trying to make everyone into our own image or trying to conform to theirs and just let people (and nations) be who God made them to be. True unity in diversity. That, my friends, is the Kingdom of God.
And the Kingdom is near. The Kingdom is inside of us.
Let’s begin to accept who God made us to be, delight in our nationalities instead of being ashamed of them. Forgive ourselves and ask others forgiveness.
Love our own nation. Love the nations of the world. And love the Father of the nations.
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