Where do we go from here? First, we have to sail back along the sea of ups and downs and learn from our compass, our past. Our history gives us the direction we need to set sail to find prosperity. We learn from our voyage the storms we have overcome, and the giant swells we fear that rock the boat of our future. When the crew works together, the ship sails through the water like a needle through clothing. “Family is like a life jacket in the stormy sea of life,” said J.K Rowling, and if we are not unified through the voyage, then the ship will fail.
For example, the challenging current the Great depression wrought on our country, the vast sea the World Wars caused, the choppy waters of the attacks of September 11, the terrible treachery of terrorists, and the aggressive assassinations of our great presidents have brought our country together. If our country was not unified, then we would have fallen apart. If our country was not unified our homeland would be in complete chaos. If our country was not unified, then we would not be successful. Abraham Lincoln wisely said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
Throughout history, our love for freedom and the pursuit of happiness have been tested. For example, in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Germany, and in Iraq. The enemies of liberty are at constant war, trying to destroy the ship that we hold so closely together. However, our veterans, our patriots, our people who hold this country together, ventured through dense jungles waiting for the enemy ambush, walk miles and miles without any rest, colored the sea red with their blood when they charged those beaches on D-day― shed for the freedoms of people who they will never meet.
These catastrophic currents and swells have pushed us to become patriots. Patriots who are proud to live and to fight for this great country. America has endured much over in its time, including a bloody, vicious civil war, and yet it has always come together, and it always will, granted we never lose sight of the principles that first forged our nation— and entrust our great unity. It all started way back in 1492 when Christopher Columbus set sail to find a quicker route to the far east. Instead, he founded one of the brightest countries that will ever live. Since then, we have become a world power. A global influence in economic, political, and technological affairs all over the globe. And yet, we still have lots to explore and discover.
We have so many freedoms available to us because of our veterans. I can pray and read my Bible without fearing my life. I can go to church on Sunday without fearing my life. I can voice my opinion without fearing my life. Thanks to our veterans, we are a free and united people.
Sadly though, we overlook those simple freedoms every day. Many people around the globe do not experience the freedom to believe in whatever they want. They grow up in a culture where they are forced to believe something and are not able to find what they truly believe in. They can not believe anything else without living in fear. Their countries do not allow them to voice their opinion. They can not speak on economic and political issues and not be cut down by their government.
Alexander Hamilton said, "the nation’s future would depend on its citizens’ love of country, lack of foreign bias, the energy of a common national sentiment, [and] a uniformity of principles and habits.” What used to be seen as a melting pot, producing distinctive Americans from a group of mixed nationalities, has cooled to a bowl whose contents retain their standard shapes and flavors. We are not producing the same type of people that take pride in their country anymore. They do not appreciate the time, effort, and lives taken to create the country they happily and freely live in.
Without our veterans, our nation can not stand. Without our veterans, our nation can not show future generations the pride and honor it takes to lead our country. Without our veterans, we would not be asking the question “where do we go from here?” They not only fight for our country, but they lead our country to the future. They are the buoy that guides us to shore. They ignite the fire of patriotism in my generation―the heads of tomorrow―to pursue the freedoms in America to further our country’s greatness.
Awarded 1st Place in the Voice of Democracy Writing Contest
A Window Better Off Broken
I find myself standing in a room- a large room filled with hundreds of windows, in each one standing a friend or a peer. I see they’ve decorated their window sills according to their respective interests: a classmate who loves musical theater covers her window panes with posters from famous shows, my neighbor displays tickets from a concert she went to, a childhood friend sets up a delicate display of potted plants and flowers. Beautiful, isn't it? Perusing the prettiest parts of someone’s life protected by a barrier- safe from their problems but sensitive to their passions. I reach out my hand to them, but I am met with cold, hard glass- realizing that what I once found beautiful is really a mirage: a meticulously crafted image. I come to terms with a hard truth: we carefully tailor ourselves to what we think others will deem acceptable, regardless of who we truly are. This framework of ideas leads my generation straight into the pit of one of its most pressing dilemmas: the burden of inauthenticity.
In a technologically prevalent world, we have the ability to broadcast our lives exactly as we want to be perceived. We show off the highlights and tuck away our heartbreaks; we share our pleasures and bury our pains. We hide behind an always smiling, always happy, always composed version of ourselves- content to watch the world through our perfect little windowsthe displays where we have set out precisely what we want others to see. But there comes a time when we discover those displays don't define who we really are. They're not real. They don't show who we really are. My classmate’s social feed fails to show the reality of her anxious tendencies, my neighbor’s status updates disguise her loneliness, and my childhood friend’s aesthetically pleasing posts overshadow her heartbreak. We grow up believing that who we are is not enough to be loved truly, faithfully, and genuinely, so we throw up a facade. We adorn our windows and wait for them to be admired.
There seems to be but one solution to resolve this cycle- the windows need to break. We need the strength to be vulnerable, to be real, to be seen. And when they shatter, then we can do more than stand by and look at the lives of other people, we can stand together and live our lives with those people. We can admire for ourselves the displays each other has created, and more importantly, we can admire those who created them. We will no longer be separated by cold, hard glass, but be united in a warm, soft embrace. We can allow each other to be fully known and cherished for who we are. We can let each other see the love and the loss, the delicate and the damaged, the innermost parts of our true souls.
I know it’s scary. To offer oneself to the examination and interpretation of others. It feels exposed, defenseless. But truly, nothing is more extraordinary than when a person comes into your life, sees your flaws, and chooses to love you regardless. When we decide to reveal our truest selves to the world, we see there’s a place for us. Every fault, flaw, and weakness that is shared is a beautiful opportunity to grow- to grow together. Authenticity allows us to build one another up, encourage each other’s passions, and offer a helping hand in times of trouble. Together, with our genuine selves, we create a harmonious symphony of the joys of being authentically and beautifully known
Rhetoric Chapel Devotional
Written and Presented by Allie White
I remember in middle school learning in Mrs. Thompson’s science class that plants need light to grow. I thought it was really cool when I learned that plants grow towards the light. They reach, bend, and fight to be in the sun. I thought it was so amazing that if I rotated a plant, the leaves and stem would gradually reach towards sunlight--no matter where it was coming from. It’s as if the plant knows that the only way that it can grow is if it reaches out towards the light.
Mark 4:3 reads, “That day when evening came, he [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”... A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, (hear this) “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down, and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
In Job 7, Job cries out to the Lord after losing everything: “Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again….Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins?”
In both of these passages, we see the disciples and Job doubting the Lord’s goodness. Did you hear the questions? “Why have you made me a target? Have I become a burden to you?” “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
I have found myself asking similar questions over the past year. When the end of the school year gets canceled, is the Lord still good? When we can’t see family in some of the hardest times, is the Lord still good? In the midst of financial hardship and political and racial tension, is the Lord still good? Twenty-twenty was so full of uncertainty. It felt like there were shadows all around, making it harder to find the light. With the prospect of a new year before us, I don’t think we should expect all of the answers to magically come. So, I think it’s important to have learned something from 2020 to carry with us into 2021. Just before Christmas break, I heard a song that gave me the words I didn’t know how to say. These are the lyrics to A Doubter’s Prayer:
Our Father who art in Heaven,
Why are You so far away?
Cuz I'd trade all my daily bread,
For just a chance to hear You explain
What it is You meant when You said it will be
On Earth, as it is in Heaven.
Father, please forgive me
For doubting the words that You say.
It's just that I've never felt much of anything
Whenever I've tried to pray.
Were You being honest when You said You would lead me
Out of temptation?
Father, Yours be the glory,
If You even have the strength
To use such a crooked person like me
To do more than damage Your name.
Your kingdom's really coming in the end
(Let me be with You).
Even though I don't deserve to,
Forever and ever.
I love the raw honesty of this song. Sometimes we think God is afraid of our questions. Or maybe we think we’re not supposed to ask them. Maybe our pride says that we have it all together-- or at least we should appear to. However, the only way the plant can grow is by reaching towards the light. It might be uncomfortable. It might feel scary. It might even feel wrong. But when our lives get rotated, we have to remember where the sunlight is and actively pursue it. Otherwise, there will be no growth.
See in 2020, I was scared to ask God why He felt so far away. In 2020, I couldn’t understand why my prayer life felt so dry. In 2020, it felt so wrong to doubt God’s plan. And yet, I wondered why I felt no growth. It’s because I wasn’t reaching for the light. I was hoping to grow in the shadows, but that’s not how we were created. I think it’s hard to ask the doubting questions because part of us knows the truth-- God’s never that far away. But somewhere, I stumbled; I failed; I got lost. We pridefully struggle to pull ourselves back together and find the answers, stubbornly refusing to look for the light. But that’s not how growth works. God’s grace goes far beyond our pride, our fears, our failures. His transcendent eternal love waits for us to come to our senses and come running like a prodigal. When we ask the doubting questions, that’s growth, and the sweetness of the Lord’s grace meets us every time. In 2021, I want to reach for the light. In 2021, I want to be transparent with my questions. Intimacy with the Lord is just behind admitting our struggles and doubts. Full disclosure leads to powerful prayer. Only when we open up and lay everything out in the light will we discover the nearness of the Lord. In that moment of admittance, the Lord’s grace has a way of finding us--reminding us that despite our questions, despite our frustration, He is still good.
A good friend of mine challenged me once to write a letter to God--just write out my thoughts and pray. Then, they challenged me to write a letter from God to me. I know that sounds really weird. But, I’ve made this a pattern in my prayer time, and the exercise is so enriching. Writing a letter from God’s perspective makes me think about all of His promises to me. It reminds me of truth. It helps me reach towards the light so that I can find growth. I encourage you to take time to think about areas in your life that you have genuine questions about, and then consider what truths God has told us in His word and what our response should be to those doubts.
We were not designed to live in shadows. Growth is a result of pursuing light. Take your questions to the Lord. He so desperately wants to walk with you through every trial and doubt. If there’s anything I learned from 2020, it’s that no matter how confused or frustrated or far away we feel, the Lord is always right behind us, gently tapping our shoulders, waiting for us to turn around and find rest.