Friday, April 11, 2008

And This Be Our Motto: "In God Is Our Trust."

I was weeping over a songbook. Shoulders shaking, tears dripping, snot flowing -- a big, indulgent cry-fest, all over a songbook. And, I still cannot decide whether the tears were more of joy or heartache; more of hope or despair. I had been reading the lyrics to patriotic songs, and I did not know whether to be more uplifted by these beautiful songs about my beloved country, or more depressed that some of these inspiring lyrics will so rarely be taught to the future generations. So, I wept.

It all started with "The Star-Spangled Banner." How many know the final verse?

Oh, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'try and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, "In God is our trust."
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Can you imagine the uproar if this verse were sung in public? How about at the next baseball game? No child in any public school will ever be taught this verse. Heck, I doubt that even the first verse is taught anymore.

When I was a girl, I remember some people saying that our national anthem should be replaced by "America the Beautiful," which is a song more in the vocal range of your average American singer. Of course, it never could be our national anthem nowadays, because the entire song is a prayer.

We all know the first verse:

Oh beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain.
America, America,
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea.

But, how many know verses two, three, and four?

Oh beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassioned stress,
A thoroughfare for freedom beat,
Across the wilderness.
America, America
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

Oh beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life.
America, America
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.

Oh beautiful for patriot dream,
That sees beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears.
America, America
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

The kicker for me, though, was when I turned to "My Country 'Tis of Thee," which has always been my favorite patriotic song. This last verse reduces me to tears, even thinking about it. The songwriter, Samuel Francis Smith, having expressed the glories of this great land in three verses, turns his praise to the One from whom all these great blessings flowed:

Our fathers' God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.

Reading these stirring words, and then reflecting on how few Americans would still proclaim these values is an exercise in conflicting emotions. I'm so proud and glad and filled with awe by what my country has been, what it was founded to be, and what it struggled -- with both ideas and blood -- to become. I am terrified by where it is going.

How much longer will our land be bright with freedom's holy light? How much longer will God sustain this rebellious nation?


Mark said...

I agree with you 100%, and love the words you posted. Perhaps, though, we'll never get back to the point where our country recognizes God for who He is. If not, there's always Heaven, where He reigns supreme, and neither politicians nor pundits can deny it.

kadie said...

Justine, glad to see you blogging again and thank you for this post. I too am overcome with sadness when I think that God is being left behind in so many ways. It challenges me to live more compassionately and to be more intentional so that I don't follow suit.

P.S. saw Rob Bell again yesterday...good stuff