A couple weeks ago, we were in Boston and I saw one of the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen. It was a line of people waiting in the hot sun for something worthy. Before I tell you what they were waiting for, let me tell you about some elements of America I fell in love with all over again while we were sight seeing in the Boston area.
Typically, I grow a little uneasy in tightly packed spaces with people invading my personal space. Riding the metro in Boston (or the “T” as they call it) was no exception. Until a little later in the week. As we walked the Freedom Trail, catching all sorts of important historical spots in our nation’s history of Revolution; as we tossed about on modern boats through the Massachusetts Bay; as we put every effort we had into getting to Plymouth Rock and back racking up miles of walking in the blistering (literally) sun with not one single water fountain to be found, I started to truly grasp the leap…nay plunge of faith the Pilgrims took in leaving their birth land for the hope of a new, liberated life in the New World.
While riding the Subway a little later in the week, smooshed up next to at least 6 or 7 of my closest strangers and their prickly legs, the woman steering the large tin can on the rails, and my husband’s bulky backpack, I suddenly realized that this must be a tiny taste of what it was like to be on the Mayflower. As we wheeled around corners and lost our balance, I reflected upon the Pilgrims who were tossed about the rocky waves on the bottom deck whilst cradled together- all 104 of them. When I took a deep breath of fowl body odors on the T, I sympathized with the uncomfortable, yet brave group of settlers who endured smells of vomit, worse body odors, and smelly sea creature dinners upon the Mayflower. As the T came to a halt, I thought of how grateful and relieved the Pilgrims must have felt to run in weakness to Plymouth Rock.
Those brave landlubber sea faring people risked everything to start over with a life of Liberty. After the first winter only half survived. But do you want to know something remarkable? From those 52 people, 30 million Americans today have descended.
Our tour guide around the town of Plymouth, Leo, made history come to life as he led us around the significant spots. But before he began, he made us all aware that in order to understand why the Pilgrims did what they did, we had to understand that all their actions were based upon their belief in the Bible and God’s Sovereignty.
Did you know that Mayflower Pilgrims were the first to bring women to the United States? Jamestown wouldn’t bring women for another 12 years. Why do you think that matters? Women’s rights? So the women could be free? Yes and yes, but mostly… they had to bring women in order to bring new life to this nation and to keep it growing.
Did you know that Governor William Bradford valued the written word so much that in addition to the hundreds of books he packed on the Mayflower (more books than the original Harvard Library held), he brought a printing press? As their ship’s mast came unhinged in a dreadful storm, someone ran to the bottom of the ship, and pulled a large iron screw from the printing press, ran back up to the top deck and jammed it in the mast pole, thus saving the lives of everyone on board.
Did you know that the Mayflower was actually blown off course? They were headed for Northern Virginia to settle by the Hudson River, which was one of the most fertile areas in the land at the time. Instead, they ended up outside Massachusetts and found an inlet river, which proved to be quite fertile itself as it was spring fed. So, they settled along that river, grew wheat, built gristmills, and had fresh drinking water.
It was there that they eventually made friends with Native American, Samoset. To get started, the Pilgrims had to ration 5 kernels of corn a day for each person in order to survive. After they survived their first winter, they had a feast to celebrate God’s faithfulness to them. Exuberantly grateful, they invited Samoset and his family. Little did they know that by inviting his family, they were inviting 99 Braves. There went their food for the winter. But God did an amazing thing through their hospitality, their new friends were hospitable back and brought venison, turkeys, and other wild game that they had in their stockpile. In gratitude, the Pilgrims and Indians each took five kernels of corn, not just to eat this time, but to go around and list five things they were thankful for. My jaw fell open when I heard this bit of history because this is a tradition my mother started in our own family for Thanksgiving early on. Their legacy of gratitude has been passed down through the generations.
So what was this incredible sight I beheld in Boston that hot, summer day? I’ll tell you. It was a line of immigrants, waiting outside Faneuil Hall-or as Benjamin Franklin and his buddies Paul Revere, John Adams, and Samuel Adams referred to it: the Cradle of Liberty- just a stone’s throw away from the site of the Boston Massacre. What were they waiting for? To go inside for their citizenship ceremony and to at last claim the United States of America as their home.
Without the brave Pilgrims that came on the Mayflower and without those who shed their blood in the Revolutionary War that sparked just down the street from Faneuil Hall, that line wouldn’t have been formed.
But it wasn’t just about the brave folks who risked everything to come here. It was about the Sovereign God who directed their steps to the ship and directed their ship to just where He intended for it to land. It was about the Sovereign God who led a group of people to a land where they could enjoy freedom for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But mostly, it was about the Sovereign God whose chief objective for man is to experience true freedom. Freedom from oppression. Freedom from the bondage of sin. Freedom from the tyranny of Satan. Freedom to escape punishment. Freedom to live a life that will never cease.
When I saw that line forming in front of the Cradle of Liberty, I wept with joy because those new pilgrims…at least for now…have come to the land of the greatest opportunity: to freely hear, accept, and live the message of Freedom through Christ. My prayer for those new citizens of the U.S. is that they’ll also become citizens of Heaven. Those who taste the sweet song of Liberty can’t help but sing its tunes.
Dear Pilgrim, what’s that shining off in the distance of your journey through the sea billows? It’s the Light of Liberty. Keep sailing. The shores of Freedom are upon you. The calmer of the sea beckons your arrival.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14 NKJV