I will admit up front that on first appearances this post may not seem to fit with the matters of relational and medical health. Bear with me; and perhaps you’ll discover your own reasons (or your own questions) about how and why it does fit.
Having attended graduations recently, it has been my privilege to be present for several public renditions of The Star-Spangled Banner. I love to sing along, and do so when at sporting events. At the graduations there were formal presentations of the anthem in a setting where it seemed that the folks around probably would prefer to hear the official performers instead of hearing me, so I sang real quietly.
Except for the last line of the first verse. I sometimes can’t sing that one. I can’t sing and cry at the same time.
Am I the only one who cries when singing the National Anthem? And why do I cry?
I’ll tell you why I cry. Because I believe deeply in living a life of freedom: Not in what I can or cannot buy, drive, eat, wear, see, or hear etc. Freedom to indulge my senses is not what I think about in terms of being a free human being.
The freedom that I think about has to do with being in relationships that are honest and not deceptive. Freedom to speak my mind respectfully. Freedom to have disagreements and logical discourse. Freedom to consume what I can grow in my own back yard; and the freedom to have my own back yard under my control.
Of course with these freedoms comes responsibility and risk. Honest relationships take energy to maintain, and my efforts alone cannot ensure the outcomes of the relationship. The contributions of the other, whether beneficial or not, have a direct bearing on the results of the relationship. Disagreements and discussions can be something which extract an emotional toll from my heart. They may cost me a job, they may cost me a relationship. Despite my best efforts, I may say the wrong words at the wrong time. I may be misunderstood. I have a big responsibility to pay attention to the quality of my communications. When it comes to my own back yard, I’d better keep my chicken pen cleaned up or my rabbit droppings appropriately composted, so that my neighbor can enjoy his back yard. And if I know my neighbor works the evening shift, it behooves me to till my garden in the afternoon, not at 7:00 AM on Saturday morning. I bear the responsibility to ensure that what I produce in goods, wastes, or noise does not exit my property in any fashion which pollutes my neighborhood.
All this to say that freedom is necessarily a partner with responsibility and risk. And to live in freedom you need to be brave. Not brave as in ready to fight; but brave as in willing to accept the inherent risks and responsibilities attendant to the freedom you desire.
When I sing the National Anthem I am haunted by the first verse’s last line: “Oh say, does that Star-Spangled banner yet wave; o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?”
My tears choke my throat not in question about the flag or the land but about the people who live in the land where this flag flies. Are we brave? Are we free? Or have we sold out to the fears and decided to settle for a “safe” existence which cannot be truly free?