Emmanuel Loves America

I met Abby on Twitter, and what do you know, she lives in Atlanta! So we've enjoyed getting to know each other outside of the computer and watch our girls drag rakes around the back yard together. She is a high school teacher and contributes this story from her classroom on the blog today.

I ask them to write poetry in the style of Walt Whitman. We read his poem “I hear America Singing” and I ask them to copy this famous poet’s form, but find a subject matter that is all their own. I get ten poems about the football team, another three about the song on the lacrosse fields, a few about soccer and basketball. My 29 student class has only one girl. Most of the boys are of the athletic variety. The boys who don’t love sports love music. They write guitars and famous musicians. They wear heavy metal t-shirts. All of my students fall neatly into the two categories, except for Emmanuel.

Emmanuel immediately has a problem with the assignment. Walt Whitman wrote about America, and I have asked him to change the subject. He wants to write about America too. Emmanuel loves America. It is not the first time he has written of the greatness of the US of A.  In a time when being patriotic is less than cool (and cool is so very important for a ninth grade boy) Emmanuel writes and shares often about the pride he has in America.

I haven’t quite figured out Emmanuel’s back story. Either his parents brought him here when he was very young, or he is a first generation American citizen. I have learned to keep things vague when it comes to citizenship statuses and the families of my Spanish speaking students. You can’t report what you don’t know. Regardless of the paperwork, it is evident that Emmanuel is often reminded of the opportunities he has in America. His parents gave up a lot to be here. He does not take his place in the world lightly.

I got saved when I was in elementary school, at least for the first time. (I am learning as an adult that I got saved completely and am getting saved daily all at the same messy time.) Mrs. Wiegand read the Roman road after Wednesday Night Alive, and I followed it right to the cross. I am grateful for the early intervention in my heart. I can only imagine all I was saved from, but sometimes I wonder if I don’t fully understand the gift of freedom I was given. I wonder, as a fourth generation believer, if I am not just like my fourth generation American students, taking for granted all I have been given.

I have a friend who had her come to Jesus moment as an adult. She is the picture of a Baptist minister’s wife. Two adorable children, a huge heart, and a gift in the kitchen, you would never guess where she has come from. They day she gave her testimony on a Sunday evening in her husband’s first church, she warned them that it may be offensive. Her past is offensive because sin is offensive is the way she so clearly explains it. After the birth of her first baby I sat with her as she changed a stinky diaper and listened to her marvel at the goodness of God.

Later, after I heard a sermon about the grace of our God, I talked to her about the difference between coming to Jesus as a child, and as an adult. She knows exactly the consequences she has been freed from. She knows the weight of the promise of the cross. She felt it in her recent passed. I know that I have been freed, that the weight of the promise of the cross is the same. But sometimes, it doesn’t feel like the same thing. I don’t say “thank You for wooing me” but “of course this is what happened.” I don’t understand just how lucky I am.

One of my other friends recently finished a pretty serious fast. If asked about just one thing that she learned that she is excited about, she will tell you about the gravity and ramifications of her own sin. I was a bit taken a back the first time she told me that, why in the world would you want to know about that? But she explains that understanding the gravity of her sin has made her aware for the first time of the sacrifice and love of Jesus.

The students in my class writing about quarterbacks or quarter notes, many of them have not much thought about the freedom that comes with citizenship of this country. And I too am guilty of thinking of the freedom that I live in daily as ordinary. I neglect the reality that someone had to earn these rights for me. I want to live with gratitude for the freedoms that the flag allows, and live in a posture that points to the freedom the cross brings. When I hear my life singing, I hope it sounds a little like Emmanuel’s. Because Emmanuel loves America.

Abby lives and loves in the city of Atlanta. She has two hilarious children and a husband that doubles as her copy editor and biggest fan. If two in diapers and a full time job teaching English at a local high school don’t keep her busy, you can find her blogging at accidentaldevotional. Abby loves all kinds of Girl Scout cookies, and carries a dream of one day writing a book about teaching
in her heart.

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  1. I've often wished we (US citizen adults) could send every high school student to a third-world country for six months as part of the graduation requirements.

    Preferably, I'd send them to a country with refugee camps on the borders and have part of the time there working to feed and care for those people.

    And, yes, I'm one of those people who know what I was saved from even though Jesus claimed me when I was 11. He reached into the middle of the ugliness of the abuse and, for reasons beyond my understanding, said, "Not this one. The enemy can't have you."

  2. I do not know all what I have been saved from and I am thankful for that. I do know the ugliness I have let fall on my savior and think I am one who forgives easily because I have been forgiven much. I hope I can realize Abby more and more what I have been saved to; that I live my life in a fashion that is thankful to not be buried in sin and thankful to be part of God's workings in this world.

  3. "But she explains that understanding the gravity of her sin has made her aware for the first time of the sacrifice and love of Jesus."
    I am currently reading the book, "Sinning like a Christian" by William Willimon. It is a look at the seven deadly sins. Today I read about envy. What I am finding is not an unrelenting voice saying, "you are awful, look at all the sins you have committed", but a freedom in recognizing the sin and fully accepting My saviors forgiveness. It is very empowering. Not what I thought would happen prior to starting this book


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