The Fourth of July used to be one of my favorite holidays. Dog days of summer, watermelon, flip flops, swimming pools, popsicles, barbecues, flags flying, family, fireworks, and most of all the celebration of a country that my parents taught me to love. But now it's my turn to create the magic--to host the barbecue, fix the picnic, get the fireworks and instill a love for America in my kids.
But every year, I am fighting harder and harder to celebrate the Fourth of July. How can I celebrate the birth of a Nation, a Nation I dearly love, while I sit on the sidelines and witness it's death? How can I teach my children to love an America that almost doesn't exist anymore? And so, the Fourth of July has become more somber for me. Get the work done, watch the fireworks, and go to bed--hoping the celebration was not too mediocre for my kids.
This Fourth of July, we got home late from watching fireworks and went to bed. We got up a little late the next morning and rushed off to church. And then at the end of sacrament services, something magical happened for me. We were asked to stand and sing the Star Spangled Banner. I always love to sing the Star Spangled Banner, but in public, we almost never hear anything but the first verse of the song. I would dare say that a great portion of the population doesn't even know other verses of the song exist. But this Sunday, as we sang this beautiful hymn, the third verse made a deep impression in my heart.
Before I share that verse, let me share with you a little background. I used to work for a Senator from the state of Wyoming. Being a small state, our offices were small and often, we filled multiple roles. One of the projects I was asked to take on was U.S. Capitol Tours. Usually, the interns gave tours to the constituents, but my chief of staff told me I could either learn and train the interns--or I could give the tours myself. I chose the latter and it was by far, the highlight of my job. One of my favorite places to take constituents, was into one of the Capitol's hallways where a huge painting hung at the bottom of the stairs. It was the painting of Francis Scott Key called "By Dawn's Early Light."
I loved the history, the story, of how our national anthem came to be. I often imagined how it would feel to be on a ship, waiting for the morning light to reveal if our beloved young country would fall to the adversary or if the flag would still be flying over the Fort as a sign that indeed, it had survived the battle.
Sunday, as we sang, I realized that the third verse of Francis Scott Key's song was not about that battle--not the battle that was happening in 1814.
Oh, thus be it ever,
When free men shall stand,
Between their loved homes,
and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace,
May the heav'n recued land,
Praise the Power that hath made,
And preserved us a nation!
Then conquer me 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!
The battle for this Country is real. It has already begun. Not only do other nations seek to destroy this "heav'n rescued land," but many inside our own borders seek to destroy it as well. The blessing of the gospel---we know how the story ends. We know it will be a long hard battle. We know the adversary will think he is winning. We will feel at times, that we are sitting in a dark boat out on the water, unsure of what we could possibly do to influence the outcome.The night will be long and lonely. But we know the morning will come. It may not be in my lifetime or yours, but the morning will come. And when it comes, that Flag, no matter how tattered and worn, will rise, once again, as an ensign to the nations.
So I will not despair. I will go forward with faith. I will recommit myself to celebrate the birth of this beautiful Nation. I will teach my children to celebrate it. To love it. To fight for what that Flag stands for. For they are blessed with a rich history of freedom that they MUST protect--for if they do, God WILL bless America.