This time of year never fails to put a spring in my step and a smile on my face. July Fourth, to me, is one of the happiest times of the year. I am an avid student of history, and the story of how this great country came into being and quickly became the envy of the world is simply amazing to me. To see the freedom and opportunity it still offers to all makes me utterly grateful to be a citizen of this land.
I say this as an American and as an odd minority.
I was born in Florida in 1970, arrived in North Carolina two weeks later, grew up a Tarheel, and I am one-quarter Lebanese, one-quarter French and one-half Puerto Rican. This odd mixture generally results in my being regarded as a blue-eyed hillbilly with a perfect tan year-round.
But if one were to name my "people group," what would a Lebanese/French/Puerto Rican be called? I am, after all of these years of pondering, almost settled on "Lefrican." My only conundrum now is pronunciation. Should my people name rhyme with Leprechaun, or should it have a smoother flow, with the emphasis on the first syllable, and sound more like "Leffrikin"?
One thing of which I am fairly certain is that my "people group" is very small indeed; I, like Louis L'Amour's Joe Makatozi, am probably the last of my breed.
American. That is my people, that is my country, and I am grateful. My family on my maternal side arrived here just after the Civil War, if I have traced it back correctly, and settled in Louisiana. My grandmother and grandfather met there.
As for me, "least likely to succeed" would not have been a stretch. My mother was left with the unenviable task of raising me alone. I was a kid raised in a mobile home. I never received an inheritance from a rich relative. There was no father to guide me. The ingredients for disaster were there.
But the ingredients for success were as well.
My mother raised me in church. We were there every time the doors were open. I received Christ as my Savior while still a youth. I stayed in school, did not get into trouble with the law, started working at various odd jobs when I was 13 years old, never stopped working, stayed away from drugs and drug users, never smoked, never drank alcohol, paid my way through college, stayed a virgin until marriage and then have stayed faithful to my wife ever since.
All of that means I have never had to pay alimony or child support, have never had trouble finding employment since I have no criminal record and have never had to beg for rides to and from work since I have never lost my license. For 10 years I owned and operated my own small business.
I am not rich; I am a pastor. But I have done pretty well. In just a few years, if all continues to go well, our home will be paid off, and we will be entirely debt-free. I have traveled extensively and enjoyed life.
There is a point to all of this, and if you are clucking to yourself about my "bragging," then you have missed it entirely. The point is, God has been good to me and to everyone else blessed to be an American. I grow weary, oh, so very weary, of people who cannot or will not see how grateful to God they should be just for getting to live here.
The children of Israel had been in bondage for 400 years in Egypt. God used Moses to deliver them, and they were free. Their life was not perfect, yet they were free, and they had the potential to be great. And yet, Numbers 14:4 says, "And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt." They were actually so ungrateful that they were willing to torpedo the future of their nation and go back into bondage.
America has never been and never will be perfect. No nation on the face of the Earth ever was or ever will be. But unlike many nations, this one is largely what each individual makes it.
In my 21 years of ministry, I have seen the stark difference between those who have poor character and a poor work ethic and those who are up early, stay out of trouble and make wise choices. I have seen the former group generally founder and the latter usually flourish. God has granted us freedom here; what we do with it is up to each of us.
It even works for Lefricans.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.