To describe the experience in a word would best be articulated by “anticipation.” That is precisely what earlier religious settlers to the New World were experiencing with every crashing sound of the Atlantic against the hull of their ship and their dreams—dreams that were embodied in a hope to live their lives and practice their religion as they pleased. As their ships progressed further out to sea and land became a distant memory, they had only the warmth of their dreams to brave the cold of fear all around them.
And so it has progressed onward in the hearts of all those who have sought to establish their lives in this land we call America. The dream to live out one’s life and practice one’s religion (or personal life philosophy) has lead many to the coastline of the United States. America’s revolution would begin from that same dream—it would kindle hope and foster dreams that would brave the most serious of uncertainties and fears. Our Founding Mothers and Fathers of this country were inspired by personal freedom and what Thomas Jefferson wrote as, “the pursuit of happiness” when they braved the cold fear of confronting the British Empire with the anticipation of independence.
Decades after America’s declaration to the world of her independence, Italian, Polish, and Irish immigrants would embark on a journey analogous to that of the Puritans and Quakers before them. These ethnic groups (among others) were motivated by joy and anticipation of the hope of living a life of “better tomorrows.” For some making the decision to leave their homeland for America, it might have been the Torch of Liberty that kindled the flame of hope in their hearts and gave them a glimpse of promise. That Torch would soon emblazon their dreams of prosperity in the land that lay before them, their convictions would be tested by trials and disappointment. Promise would come generations later, built from the sacrifice of those who confronted fears and disappointment with optimism and perseverance.
As Adventist Christians, hoping for a better tomorrow is not uncommon in our Adventist experience. To some degree our founders shared much of the same feelings of hope and desires for a better tomorrow. Their hope was not in temporal geography, but that of Heaven itself. Their better tomorrow involved the Messiah Jesus returning in triumphant glory bringing liberty and prosperity to all for all of eternity. Much like the religious settlers of early American history, the Founders of America, the immigrants that continue to “brave the storm of fears” to come to this land of promise, our Adventist pioneers faced disappointment, indeed a Great Disappointment.
When one reflects upon our common past we are confronted with disappointment at what might have been. For those religious settlers of the 1600s might have come to the New World to find religious tolerance they would sadly project the same intolerance they experienced toward those who would settle after them and those already living in Mesoamerica. Our nation’s Founders might have fought for ideals of freedom and liberty for white, Protestant, males, yet for Catholics, women, Native Americans, and black slaves those ideals would take some time to be actualized. Immigrants to America hoped for a better tomorrow, and for some their social standing was improved, however for the overwhelming majority the stark reality of prejudice and social stratification was all too real a reminder of the walls of separation that needed to be overcome.
Similarly for early Advent believers, there was a palpable sense of having been fooled by their hopes and lead astray by their dreams. Such an experience is common when hopes and dreams confront a challenging reality of fears and disappointments. However, rather than allow these fears to silence our hopes or permit disappointments to squelch our dreams the history of humanity has demonstrated that the human spirit strives to persevere. It is in that sense of perseverance, of dreaming of a better tomorrow, that the Society of Friends established Pennsylvania, the early Revolutionary leaders choose to unite thirteen colonies of the British Empire and proclaim their independence, immigrants concurred their worries and made the decision to come to America, and it is that same sense of perseverance in the face of disappointment that guided saddened members of the Advent movement to establish the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
It is upon the sacrifices and accomplishments of those that have come before us that we, too, declare our independence from fear and disappointment—together we celebrate all those individual “founding mothers and fathers” in our own lives and families that have sacrificed to lead us where we are today. On this Independence Day we celebrate not only the birth of a nation as Americans but also as Adventist Christians, the freedom and independence we have from sin and the snares of Satan. As chosen, loved, and redeemed Children of God we proclaim our independence as our declaration unto the whole world until the return of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
May the grace of our God be with us on this Independence Day. God bless.