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This is the season of the year when the flags of patriotism are unfurled, and we once more stoke up the fires of passionate awareness of one’s country. We’re practically breathing red, white (and blue). It’s interesting that both Canada Day here at home and Independence Day in the US are so closely placed, and even seem to join us in sympathetic brotherhood. Like it or not, sharing one of the longest natural borders in the world creates a close alliance.

Modern minds may mock the idea, but heart-felt devotion to the motherland runs as deeply as time itself. Watch the fervor on the faces at an athletic event as they sing the national anthem. Cast a slur on someone’s nationality, and you’ve ignited a storm of fist-a-cuffs. Demean someone’s origins, and they’ll never forget it. These are deep and weighty matters, well beyond the reach of words. In case you haven’t got the message, roots matter.

In an age when individualism is unabashedly worshipped, giving honor to one’s home, family, culture or country may be scorned as a form of weakness. We’ve become obsessed with making our own unique mark upon the world, and we’re loathe to share the glory. God forbid we should actually credit the hard work our parents performed, or what they sacrificed to give us an advantage greater than their own. Never mind the great teachers, mentors, bosses, or comrades that gave us a liberal leg-up along the way. Citizenship in a great nation which affords us the freedom and protection we need to flourish may be utterly, casually dismissed. We’re under outrageous delusion we’re a one-man band. It’s time for a reality check.

As I grow older, the real weight and true value of family, and especially great parents is finally dawning on me. No man is an island, much as the dyed-in-the-wool introvert in me cherishes the imagery. So much of our identity, stability and ability to form strong and lasting relationships comes from the strength of these unseen anchors, contingent upon the honor we afford them. As dysfunctional as some of our family dynamics may be, most of them are still better than nothing. Simply ask anyone who’s been adopted and spent their lives searching for answers. Watch the pain and hopelessness in the eyes of refugees driven far from their home. It occurs to me that we take far, far too much for granted, and only seem to come to our senses in that horrible moment when we realize that what we should have cherished is now gone for good.

Scripture teaches unmistakably that our lives are built on the foundation of those who went before us. For better or worse, we inherited an entire back-story that is either our bane or blessing. The real question is: What are we going to do with it? What are going to do about it? How can we take this legacy and turn it into something meaningful and beautiful that will outlast our life-time? This is not a pipe-dream. It is the intent of God that the generations should build upon, and exceed, the achievements of one another. Take a lesson from the tower of Babel; if we could only build on the lessons of our progenitors and move in unity, nothing would be impossible for us. In fact, we are given the graphic imagery of our ancestors, gazing down from the balustrades of heaven, and cheering on our progress in the equation of righteousness. This is a tremendously powerful thought that seems to have gotten lost in the flurry of modern individualism.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-3

We are not imagining the shadow of the patriarchs. Scientists have much to say regarding the power of genetic memory and the influence it exerts subconsciously upon us. We are bound, in spirit and in flesh to the bloodlines running strongly through our veins.

I recently, accidently, discovered some powerful history about ancestors of mine. At the turn of the century, within 5 years of each other, both sides of my family immigrated from Volhynia province in Poland. Immigrants of that day clustered together, trusting in one another for help in transitioning with nothing in their possession but the clothing on their backs. They left a place of oppression for a land promising new beginnings and fresh hope; an action requiring ridiculous amounts of faith and courage. When I consider the hardships they faced, and the fortitude they possessed, I stand in awe. I don’t begin to understand the cost of such a transition. Canada was to them a beacon of hope, and it has proved itself true to the promise. We were embraced with kindly arms. Her back-history may not be perfect, but our family is unquestionably indebted to Canada.

Ultimately, Jesus wears the coat of many colors; the kingly robe of the nations. The Lord is the Father of all the families of the earth; Almighty, El Shaddai, unchanging Abba. In the final analysis, He’s our great patriarch and motherland, the unchanging rock. Nations may rise and fall and changing tides overwhelm us, but He is our bedrock.

Lord, I’m grateful for the heritages I have so often rolled my eyes at. The weighty history you have bound me to has my fresh respect. Open my eyes and heart to truly understand your glorious intent for the family, culture and country to which I am called. I want to be a blessing of grace to this land which has given so much to me.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Psalm 90:1-3

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