My freshman year of college I took Western Civilization, as many freshmen do. That class was the first time I really enjoyed history. It was the first time history was presented (or I received it) as something more than a procession of dated and events. It was presented as being driven, at least in part, by ideas. It was that course, in part, that led me to major in philosophy.
One day my professor asked the class if we thought the United States was still on the way up, peaking, or beginning to decline. There were students who took all three views, but I was on the “beginning to decline” camp. A quarter of a century later, I stand by that assessment.
I was carrying this weight as I sat down to evening prayer last night. The Psalm for the evening was as if someone had picked it out for me in my thoughts.
Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.
Psalm 37:1-11 (ESV)
Fret not. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more. I recommend the entire Psalm to you. It’s as if God is exhorting me to take my own advice to see things from his experience and perspective.
I know that we in America still have the greatest liberty of any country on earth. I pray for our brothers and sisters in other countries who face death and maltreatment much worse than anything we endure. But it concerns me that the Lady in the harbor has become another place of fear instead a beacon of hope. Access is limited and risk assessments are done to thwart possible attacks.
I am enough of a student of history to know that our country has never been perfect. I don’t wish a return to bygone days when we got it all right because I know that time never existed, but I also know there were better times than right now because I am old enough to remember them.
But, as I was reminded by David last night, this world is not my home and my hope comes from the Lord. It is uncomfortable being an alien and a stranger—especially in one’s own country—but if that is to be my lot, if that will prepare me for my heavenly home, then so be it. I will do my best to fret not.