An earthquake shook up the nations capital recently and before I even saw any images of the damage, all I could think was, ‘well, how symbolic is that.’ Cynical, yes. But who would really argue that America has been on a sad path for awhile. So when I heard that evening about the National Cathedral being damaged and the crack in the Washington Monument, I rolled my eyes and shook my head. Of course the church is damaged. The cathedral is located on the highest hill in the district, and the monument is the tallest in DC. The highest places. The high places.
The high places in the Bible (called ‘Bama‘ in Hebrew) were places of pagan worship. They worshiped trees, stones, anything but the one true God, Yahweh. Time and time again, they are told to take down their high places, to remove the idol-worship from their midst. Sometimes they obeyed, and sometimes they refused. I thought about America’s high places, what we have replaced God with, and how we are systematically removing Him from every facet of our lives. I saw a picture of the damage at the National Cathedral and felt incredibly sad and discouraged. The very ideas and principals that made us great have been deemed backward, harmful or hateful. The foundations are shaking and things are falling.
I meditated on this picture for a good couple of days. The approaching tenth anniversary of 9-11 only compounded my sense of sadness. Many people in our midst ‘know’ God. They know the Truth. They know about the Truth at least, but they don’t honor it. The reverence and respect is gone. As a country, we have turned our backs on our Creator and replaced Him with everything imaginable. The book of Romans says it plainly: “Professing to be wise, they became fools”, (1:22).
I know that God’s intentions are not to depress me or leave me dismayed at what is going on around me. He wants to reveal His truth, but He also wants to balance all that out with His comfort and peace. So, after a few days pondering the fallen angel picture, He led me to something new.
On a weekend getaway to Colorado Springs, Peter and I decided to test out our lungs and take the drive up to the top of Pikes Peak. It was somewhat terrifying for me and I realized quickly my fear of high switchbacks with no guardrails. The summit was a total tourist trap, full of out- of -breath out -of- towners. On our way back to the car, we saw a large plaque and went over to read it.
America the Beautiful. Tears. Embarrassing, blubbering, out-of-nowhere tears. Caught me by surprise. The fact that I was standing next to a World War II veteran decked out in his finest did not help. I cry when this song is played at fireworks on the 4th of July, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised. As I stood up there at the summit and looked around at the scenery and the people surrounding me, it hit me. America IS beautiful. There are people who still believe that. God IS still here, as much as we have collectively tried to remove Him. He is with those who desire to honor Him, even when so many choose not to do so. God did shed His grace on our country and He still longs to give it to us as individuals.
The funny thing about high places is that they are hard to take down and all too easy to rebuild. We all have our own high places. Like the kings of Israel, sometimes we remove them and sometimes we don’t. As a country, we have some big cracks in our foundations and the high places are shaking. I don’t know if they can be repaired. I do know that there is a God who cares enough to comfort those in distress. He told Israel to remove their idols, and He is telling us to remove ours as well.
There is a hope. There is grace. As we pause to remember the events of ten years ago, I pray that Christians in America would feel strongly the need to step it up. Not in rhetoric, or empty and harsh words. We don’t need to be more hip, and we don’t need to be politically correct. Our burden is to communicate the truth of Jesus as He has revealed it, not to alter the message to make it more appealing. The things that are false need to go. We need to make room for what is true. We are called to speak the truth in love.
Remove what is wrong, and restore it with what is right.