“Yearning to Breathe Free”
by Ella deCastro Baron
Today, we celebrate our freedom! After the American Revolution, the original thirteen colonies signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to establish their freedom, as sovereign states, from a tyrannical King of Great Britain. We are familiar with the opening tenets of “all men are created equal,” that all have the inalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
If we look at the entire text of the Declaration, most of it is actually a list of grievances against the King of Great Britain. In these colonies’ words, his was “a history of repeated injuries and usurpations.” By the grace of God, and filled with supernatural courage to defend and speak out for what was right, these colonies took a stand to protect their vulnerable people. Who knew but God that when these people sailed overseas, leaving their native lands behind, that they would establish a safe haven. In 2019, we are this legacy.
As a daughter of immigrants myself, every day that I am here, on this sound soil, humbles and inspires me. My parents escaped poverty, corrupt government, and a precarious future if they stayed in the Philippines. Just one example: in the 1990s, Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines, burying hundreds of villages in “lahar” (volcanic mud). In my mom’s province of Pampanga, 240,000 *families* were rendered homeless. (A total of over two million Filipinos were displaced.) My Uncle Willie’s family was relocated to temporary shelter—a one room bamboo hut—indefinitely. He had 14 kids! When I visited them in 1994, what stood out most was their joy to be together as family. Despite their meager circumstances, they knew God would not forsake them.
This “hope that does not disappoint,” this deeper liberating and preserving peace—the shalom—of knowing Jesus and what He has redeemed, is the cornerstone, the foundation of all of this freedom.
Today, on Fourth of July, as we spend the day loving each other [with all the five love languages—plus the sixth: food!] it feels natural to thank God for this grace and privilege to live as free humans, especially in the world right now. Over 68.5 million people are displaced around the planet, forcibly removed from their homes. Like my uncle’s family, like we Americans, people everywhere have an innate need for connection and Love.
On the Statue of Liberty is inscribed the poem, “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus. It is worth reading out loud to hear and experience the beauty of poetry, to let the words themselves engage, excavate and rearrange our cells as art often does!
“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
May our “beacon-hand” offer the light of Jesus. May these words, along with those our spirits offer in intercession, also breathe into the atmosphere: a prayer of thankfulness for our freedoms, and a prayer reflecting God’s heart to those among us and everywhere, yet “yearning to breathe free.”