I'm from the left coast of the United States. I may have mentioned that before. From the patio in front of my house, I can watch the sunset over a saltwater bay that ultimately leads, via a few twists and turns, to the Pacific Ocean. I've almost always lived on the far side of the Rockies from where I've been visiting this last week. I was born in California, and spent the rest of my life in the Pacific Northwest, other than a four-year sojourn in Michigan while my father got his PhD at the University whose fight-song claims, ridiculously (even to my then 5-year-old ears), that it was/is 'the Champion of the west.'
All this to say that, though I've traveled to Europe, read countless biographies and have more than a passing knowledge of my country's history, I've seen things this week that have impressed me. Buildings I could have sworn were merely giant sets for movies. I mean, really. And I've learned a thing or two. I'm telling you, even I have learned a thing or two...
See, today the six of us ventured out into the 100+ degree temperatures and drove down I-95 to Philadephia. The place of Philly-cheese steaks (which were eaten for lunch, and lived up to their billing), Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. We sat through a presentation at Constitution Hall that reminded us that we all are "We the People". We walked through a long, round museum of history of this country and the constitution, the people, the changes made, the prices paid. I kept thinking how much more alive it made a flat document many of us memorized a mere portion of (if at all). I learned a thing or two, like that in the late 1880s, the Supreme Court defined Corporations as "persons", and gave them the same Constitutional Rights as individuals, explaining something I have never quite understood. Then we walked through a room of bronze statues of the men who wrote the constitution. Beve and D, both over 6'6", towered next to George Washington, but just by a little. The other signers were pint-sized in comparison, especially James Madison, the littlest one of all. Yep, Constitution Hall was a high of the day.
A low, of course, was the heat. The high heat. The never-ending, relentless heat. The record-breaking heat. Ridiculous. Really. I haven't the wherewithal to handle it. Nor does Beve whose shirt I watched get wetter and wetter as the day passed.
After lunch, the Liberty Bell. Being a West-Coaster, I've never gotten the fascination with the Liberty Bell. I mean, it's just a Bell. Every second church has one, after all. And this one is even cracked. I don't know if you knew that. But today, I began to understand it. It was forged as a symbol of freedom. Now I may not truly get the whole significance of its purpose back in the 1700s, but I can understand symbols. And more than its original intent, I see something profound in the Liberty Bell and that famous crack. Twice in its long history, men tried to repair it. Once, they simply reforged the iron together. The second time it cracked, in the 1800s, it was clear that the flaw was fatal. There would be no further attempt to 'fix' the crack. At that time, men actually widened the gap in the Liberty Bell, placing little balls of steel at two places to hold the gap apart. The cracked liberty bell could not be rung.
As I stood at the Liberty Bell I thought of how perfect a symbol it actually is of man's attempt to bring about his own freedom. Throughout history--both of this nation and every other--humans have tried to 'let freedom ring.' However, our freedom is always cracked. Our ability to be free has a fatal flaw in it. That flaw is our own sin. Our own effort, and our covering of the flaw. Galatians 5:1 says that "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (emphasis mine)." Christ is the only one who can set us free. By His death, we are freed. He mends--eternally--the broken places in our lives.
The Liberty Bell will never be fixed. It stands forever flawed in its own human-made sanctuary in Philadelphia. If you'd like, you can see it. Free of charge. Just show your bag at the door. Take a picture or two. But while you gaze at it, think of how it can be a perfect symbol of the inadequacy of our stab at freedom. And "stand firm, then" in the freedom He has given.